This longitudinal study evaluates the role of individual and contextual socioeconomic determinants in the socioeconomic inequalities in incidence and mortality for coronary events in Turin, Italy, using hierarchical models. All residents aged 35-74 at the start of 1997 were included in the study population. We considered as outcomes all incident cases and deaths that occurred in the study population in the period 1997-2002. The socioeconomic indicators were educational level, job status and median income per census tract. A neighbourhood deprivation index was also used, which combines, in an aggregated measure, a series of poor individual socioeconomic conditions. The analyses were performed using hierarchical Poisson models, with individuals (n = 523,755) considered as level I units and neighbourhoods (n = 23) as level II units. Among men, we observed an inverse gradient in incidence by educational level and an excess risk for persons who were not actively employed. More marked excesses were found for mortality (RR: 1.63; 95% CI: 1.05-2.55, for unemployed persons compared to employed persons). Among women, greater socioeconomic differences were observed for both incidence and mortality; all of the individual indicators contributed to these differences. The differentials in mortality were particularly great for the retired and for housewives (RR: 1.98; 95% CI: 1.40-2.81). Slight excesses in incidence were observed among men for the most deprived areas. The results of this study reveal that job status is the most important individual factor explaining socioeconomic inequalities for coronary events, whereas context seems to play a marginal role.