Accounting for Changes in Health Inequalities in Smoking and Obesity in the United States, 1960-2000

Sam Harper, McGill University
John Lynch, McGill University

We analyzed trends from 1960-2000 in absolute and relative inequality among age, gender, race, and education groups for smoking and obesity. Smoking was primarily patterned by gender and age in 1965. Over the next 38 years both absolute and relative inequality declined for gender but increased dramatically across education groups. Most of the change in inequality in smoking was due to differential declines in smoking, but changes in the distribution of social groups also had an impact. For example, changes in the size of educational groups accounted for 16% of the increase in relative inequality across education. For obesity, the decline in relative inequality and the increase in absolute inequality across age groups was due to disproportionately faster increases in obesity among those ages 18-24, while declines in absolute and relative educational inequality were primarily due to faster-than-average growth in obesity among those with at least some college education.

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Presented in Session 28: Socioeconomic Differentials in Health and Mortality