Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Krista Brumley


The relationship between income inequality and health is often studied at either the individual-level or contextual-level. The purpose of this research is to assess both of these levels, by simultaneously examining the individual and contextual contributions of income inequality on health. To address this research objective, I use data for 14,126 respondents from the 2006 wave of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a nationally representative sample of Americans over 50. For this analysis, I use multi-level modeling with fixed and random intercepts to assess the relationship between income inequality and three measures of health. This study has two main findings. First, an increase in individual income predicts better self-rated, physical, and mental health in middle and older aged adults, but that this protective effect varies profoundly by race and gender. The second main finding of this research is that contextual-level income inequality has no effect on the health of those over 50 in the US. The main contribution of this research is that it emphasizes the need for using multi-level modelling when studying this problem in order to more fully understand the simultaneous contribution of individual- and contextual-level income inequality.

Included in

Sociology Commons