Measuring inequalities in health: what do we know? What do we need to know?

Health Policy. 2012 Jul;106(2):195-206. doi: 10.1016/j.healthpol.2012.04.007. Epub 2012 May 18.


We argue that policy analysis aiming at curving inequalities in health calls for a better understanding of what we know about its measurement pathways. Assuming that health is a good that individuals trade off against other goods, unavoidable health inequalities result when after controlling for unavoidable factors (e.g., age and gender), differences in socioeconomic status of an individual systemically engender differences in health outcomes. However, the measurement of such inequality and underpinning reasons behind are not suggestive of a clear picture. In reviewing the literature, we conclude that it is unclear what the evidence suggests about the reasons for health inequalities as well as the best possible instruments to measure both inequality and socioeconomic health gradients. We provide an evaluation of the different sources of health inequity and we draw upon measurement issues and their policy significance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Bias
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Health Policy
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Health Status Indicators
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Male
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors