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Measuring socioeconomic status in health research in developing countries: Should we be focusing on households, communities or both?
Authors: Fotso, Jean-Christophe; Kuate-Defo, Barthelemy
Source: Social Indicators Research, Volume 72, Number 2, June 2005 , pp. 189-237(49); DOI:
Topic(s): Inequality
Country: Africa
  Multiple African Countries
Published: JUN 2005
Abstract: Research on the effects of socioeconomic well-being on health is important for policy makers in developing countries, where limited resources make it crucial to use existing health care resources to the best advantage. This paper develops and tests a set of measures of socioeconomic status indicators for predicting health status in developing countries. We construct socioeconomic indexes that capture both household and community attributes so as to allow us to separate the social from the purely economic dimensions of the socioeconomic status within a cross-national perspective, with applications to data from Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) fielded in five African countries in the 1990s. This study demonstrates the distinctive contributions of socioeconomic indexes measured at the household vs. community level in understanding inequalities in health and survival and underlines the importance of going beyond the purely economic view of socioeconomic status to cover the multidimensional as well as multilevel concept of economic and social inequality.