Socioeconomic Disparities in Health at the Starting Gate: Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States Compared

Melissa L. Martinson, University of Washington
Nancy E. Reichman, Rutgers University

Relatively little is known about the comparability of health inequalities across well-developed countries and when during the lifecourse these inequalities emerge. Low birthweight is an important marker for health over the life course. In the US, there is clear evidence of a socioeconomic gradient in this marker of health at the “starting gate,” but little is known about how that gradient compares to other countries. This paper uses nationally representative data from four countries—Australia, Canada, the UK, and the US—to compare socioeconomic gradients in low birthweight across countries that share many cultural features but differ in terms of public support and healthcare systems. Preliminary results demonstrate a general pattern of socioeconomic inequality in low birthweight in all four countries. However, the magnitude of the socioeconomic gradient varies by country, and it appears that the UK, Canada and Australia are able to buffer some of the most deleterious effects of socioeconomic inequality compared to the US.

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 Presented in Session 177. Maternal, Infant, and Child Health and Mortality