Health Inequality in Nordic Welfare States - More Inequality or the Wrong Measures?

U of Oslo Working Paper No. 2009:4

Posted: 21 May 2009

See all articles by Kjell Arne Brekke

Kjell Arne Brekke

University of Oslo - Department of Economics; University of Oslo - Frisch Center

Snorre Kverndokk

Ragnar Frisch Centre for Economic Research

Date Written: May 20, 2009

Abstract

Several empirical papers have indicated that the health inequalities in the Nordic welfare states seem to be at least as high as health inequalities in other European countries even if the Nordic states have a more egalitarian income structure. This is in contrast to standard economic theory that predicts that income equality should lead to health equality everything else equal. We argue that there may be a straightforward explanation why Nordic countries appear to have a steeper health gradient than other countries. Health and income are related, and the correlation between income and health will be weaker the more noise there is in terms of other determinants of income. If the Nordic countries have succeeded in reducing the impacts of other determinants of income, like social class, then the correlation between income and health will be stronger in the Nordic countries. This story also holds for other measures of health inequality. However, if the causality is running from income to health, there may be a reason why health inequality is higher in more egalitarian states based on cognitive stress theory. We argue however, that even in this case the difference between Nordic states and the rest of Europe may be a result of poor measures.

Keywords: Health inequality, socio-economic status, Nordic welfare states, egalitarian countries

JEL Classification: D31, I12

Suggested Citation

Brekke, Kjell Arne and Kverndokk, Snorre, Health Inequality in Nordic Welfare States - More Inequality or the Wrong Measures? (May 20, 2009). U of Oslo Working Paper No. 2009:4. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1407567 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1407567

Kjell Arne Brekke

University of Oslo - Department of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 1095 Blindern
N-0317 Oslo
Norway
+47 22 84 11 69 (Phone)

University of Oslo - Frisch Center ( email )

Gaustadalleen 21
N-0349 Oslo
Norway
+47 22 95 88 19 (Phone)
+47 22 95 88 25 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: www.frisch.uio.no

Snorre Kverndokk (Contact Author)

Ragnar Frisch Centre for Economic Research ( email )

Gaustadalleen 21
N-0349 Oslo
Norway
+47 22958811 (Phone)
+47 22958825 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.frisch.uio.no/cv/snorrek_eng.html

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