The epidemiology of systemic lupus erythematosus suggests that the excess morbidity and mortality in blacks with the disease is related to lower socioeconomic status. Poverty and factors associated with poverty are powerful predictors of poor outcome in a variety of chronic diseases, and lupus appears to be no exception. A body of studies in other illnesses suggests ways to neutralize, at least partially, the disadvantages of lower socioeconomic status, even though the root causes of poverty may be insurmountable. These include improving access to quality health care; targeting educational programs to promote recognition and understanding of the disease and the comorbid conditions that affect outcome; implementing programs to improve self-monitoring and adherence to medical regimens; developing opportunities to facilitate homemaking, childrearing, and working outside the home; and applying psychosocial interventions to enhance self-confidence and social support. Improved access to quality health care may actually lead to a decrease in health care costs.