Available evidence regarding the relationship between socioeconomic status and health in childhood has been summarized. Only studies that used income, education, or occupation as measures of socioeconomic status and provided data obtained subsequent to legislation facilitating access to care have been cited. Data are presented on the prevalence and severity of illness (mortality, acute conditions as a group, chronic conditions as a group, and hospitalization), sequelae of prematurity, and specific common health problems and their sequelae. These specific health problems are lead poisoning, vision problems, otitis media and hearing loss, cytomegalic inclusion disease, asthma, psychosocial and psychosomatic problems, and iron deficiency anemia. All of the above (with the possible exception of asthma) are more prevalent among poor children than among nonpoor children. Even more striking is the evidence for consistently greater severity of problems or likelihood of sequelae among poor children. Although causality cannot be inferred from these data, the findings suggest a need for more basic research on the social correlates of disease, on the effect of social progress on disease prevalence and severity, and on the effect of medical care in overcoming the disadvantage associated with low socioeconomic status.
- Received August 31, 1981.
- Accepted November 13, 1981.
- Copyright © 1982 by the American Academy of Pediatrics