Income Inequality, Social Capital, and Health: A New Synthesis

Award Year:
Ichiro Kawachi, Bruce Kennedy
Poverty and Health, Social Determinants of Health
Inequalities in health by socioeconomic status (SES) are large, pervasive, persistent, and widening. Most theories attempting to explain them use individual-level indicators of SES such as income, educational attainment, or occupation. In contrast, this project builds on a new hypothesis of unequal distribution of income as a determinant of health. Drs. Kawachi and Kennedy: (1) examine the relationship between income inequality and mortality at different points in time (1960 through 1990) and at different levels of analysis (state, MSA, county, individual); 2) outline a new theory of the production of health through social and political capital and demonstrate linkages between income inequality and varying access to these forms of capital; and 3) develop a conceptual definition of social capital, exploring its role as an intermediary variable between income inequality and mortality.