Institute for Social and Economic Change

Working Paper: 249

Income, Income Inequality and Mortality - An Empirical Investigation of the Relationship in India, 1971-2003

K S James
T S Syamala



This study aims to understand the nuances behind the often-celebrated relationship between income and mortality in the context of India. The income-life expectancy relationship is non-linear in nature, with mortality responding sharply in the earlier years and rather slowly in the latter years. The regression analysis between per-capita income and the Gini-Coefficient with mortality for different decades revealed that the income-mortality relationship has been weaker in the 1970s but became stronger in the 1980s and the 1990s. In the 1990s, the relationship was mainly confined to the 0-4 and 70+ age groups. In addition, during the 1990s, besides income, the income inequality measure (Gini Coefficient) became an important predictor of mortality. The multi-level analysis also proved nearly the same pattern. The income-mortality relationship in India is limited to the childhood years. The income inequality measure also matters more in the case of childhood mortality. The study also looks at the pathways through which income or income inequality can influence mortality. Nevertheless, it is found that neither the access to care nor the bad health habits can explain this relationship completely. Perhaps, there is a need for further deep investigation into the relationship to understand the pathways through which it operates in India.

Working Papers