Technological innovation and inequality in health

Demography. 2008 Aug;45(3):741-61. doi: 10.1353/dem.0.0017.


The effect of education on health has been increasing over the past several decades. We hypothesize that this increasing disparity is related to health-related technical progress: more-educated people are the first to take advantage of technological advances that improve health. We test this hypothesis using data on disease-specific mortality rates for 1980 and 1990, and cancer registry data for 1973-1993. We estimate education gradients in mortality using compulsory schooling as a measure of education. We then relate these gradients to two measures of health-related innovation: the number of active drug ingredients available to treat a disease, and the rate of change in mortality from that disease. We find that more-educated individuals have a greater survival advantage in those diseases for which there has been more health-related technological progress.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Diffusion of Innovation*
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Healthcare Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Laboratory Science*
  • Models, Statistical
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Mortality / trends
  • SEER Program / statistics & numerical data
  • United States / epidemiology