Painting a truer picture of US socioeconomic and racial/ethnic health inequalities: the Public Health Disparities Geocoding Project

Am J Public Health. 2005 Feb;95(2):312-23. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2003.032482.


Objectives: We describe a method to facilitate routine monitoring of socioeconomic health disparities in the United States.

Methods: We analyzed geocoded public health surveillance data including events from birth to death (c. 1990) linked to 1990 census tract (CT) poverty data for Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Results: For virtually all outcomes, risk increased with CT poverty, and when we adjusted for CT poverty racial/ethnic disparities were substantially reduced. For half the outcomes, more than 50% of cases would not have occurred if population rates equaled those of persons in the least impoverished CTs. In the early 1990s, persons in the least impoverished CT were the only group meeting Healthy People 2000 objectives a decade ahead.

Conclusions: Geocoding and use of the CT poverty measure permit routine monitoring of US socioeconomic inequalities in health, using a common and accessible metric.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Censuses
  • Family Characteristics / ethnology
  • Female
  • Geography
  • Healthy People Programs*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massachusetts / epidemiology
  • Morbidity*
  • Population Surveillance / methods*
  • Poverty / ethnology*
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data
  • Program Evaluation
  • Rhode Island / epidemiology
  • Risk Assessment
  • Social Class*
  • Socioeconomic Factors