Inequity in the face of death

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Abstract

We apply the theory of inequality of opportunity to the measurement of inequity in mortality. Using a rich data set linking records of mortality and health events to survey data on lifestyles for the Netherlands (1998–2007), we test the sensitivity of estimated inequity to different normative choices and conclude that the location of the responsibility cut is of vital importance. Traditional measures of inequity (such as socioeconomic and regional inequalities) only capture part of more comprehensive notions of unfairness. We show that distinguishing between different routes via which variables might be associated to mortality is essential to the application of different normative positions. Using the fairness gap (direct unfairness), measured inequity according to our implementation of the ‘control’ and ‘preference’ approaches ranges between 0.0229 and 0.0239 (0.0102–0.0218), while regional and socioeconomic inequalities are smaller than 0.0020 (0.0001). The usual practice of standardizing for age and gender has large effects on measured inequity. Finally, we use our model to measure inequity in simulated counterfactual situations. While it is a big challenge to identify all causal relationships involved in this empirical context, this does not affect our main conclusions regarding the importance of normative choices in the measurement of inequity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1348-1367
Number of pages20
JournalHealth Economics
Volume24
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jul 2014

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