Income inequality, illiteracy rate, and life expectancy in Brazil

Am J Public Health. 2003 Aug;93(8):1294-6. doi: 10.2105/ajph.93.8.1294.


Objectives: The link between income disparities and health has been studied mostly in developed nations. This study assesses the relationship between income disparities and life expectancy in Brazil and measures the impact of illiteracy rates on the association.

Methods: The units of analysis (n = 27) are all the Brazilian states and the federal capital. Simple and multiple linear regressions were performed to measure the association between income disparity, measured by the Gini coefficient, gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, and illiteracy rate. Data came from publicly available sources at the Brazilian Ministry of Health and the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics.

Results: Income disparities and illiteracy rates were negatively associated with life expectancy in Brazil. GDP per capita was positively associated with life expectancy. The inclusion of illiteracy rates in the regression model removed the effect of income disparities.

Conclusions: Illiteracy rate is strongly associated with life expectancy in Brazil. This finding is in accord with reports from the United States and has implications for health policy and planning for both developed and developing countries.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Brazil / epidemiology
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Economics
  • Educational Status*
  • Humans
  • Income / classification*
  • Income / statistics & numerical data
  • Life Expectancy*
  • Linear Models
  • Middle Aged
  • Socioeconomic Factors*