Does health care predict socioeconomic status?

Does health care predict socioeconomic status?

  • It is a truth universally acknowledged that harsh beginnings tend to inflict deep traumas
  • Of course, any collective effort to address this crucial issue will come at a heavy cost
  • For too long we have maintained an incoherent constellation of assumptions about humanity

In a longitudinal study conducted in England over the last six decades, tens of thousands of babies were monitored since the 1940s and the 1950s for their health, social, and educational outcomes.

According to this study, social class differences tended to widen and deepen in the ensuing decades. Between 1958 and 1970 social mobility decreased and adult income became more correlated to parental income. Home ownership, an indicator of upward socioeconomic mobility, also fell.

In the 1950s and the 1960s, Western countries experienced significant economic growth. Consequently, the beneficial effects of wealth were becoming more potent and noticeable.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that harsh beginnings tend to inflict deep traumas. Low social status and income produce individuals who tend to live shorter lives and have poor reading skills. Consequently, poverty increasingly evolves into an inescapable and unjustified trap.

From infant mortality to education to established patterns of antisocial and criminal behavior, poverty plays a significant role in erecting almost insurmountable barriers to exclude millions of disadvantaged individuals from a more decent and purposeful life. Lives that begin in hardship just get harder as they go on. According to the study, the disadvantaged group suffered adversity after adversity.

The gap between socioeconomic groups could be traced all the way back to conditions in the womb. Lack of medical care, smoking, heavy alcohol drinking and other risky behaviors on the part of the mother during pregnancy, tend to cause hyperactive children accentuated by emotional and learning problems.

Parents with high aspirations and expectations for their children provided the strongest buffer against disadvantage. Reading regularly to children has real educational benefits.

Parental involvement can compensate for a lack of financial power to some degree. Furthermore, it is key to a child’s academic success. However, parental involvement poses a monumental challenge to low-income families working long hours.

A socialist once said, “Those who have the power to remove the social ills do not have the will, and those who have the will have not, as yet, the power.”

According to a recent study examining the correlation between health and income, the relationship between income inequality and poor health is persistent across both developing and developed countries, despite policy initiatives to address socioeconomic gaps.

Furthermore, disadvantaged groups were excluded from adequate health services,  leading to higher levels of mortality, lower life expectation, and academic underachievement.

Many policy makers perceive the need to counter a rising tide of income inequality with reiteration of increasingly widening gap of key quality of life indicators. The picture that ultimately emerges confirms and supplements the existing scholarly research on the relationship between providing adequate health care and socioeconomic status.

Asserting the originality of these findings is critical since many studies have established a certain link between accessible health care and a decent and fulfilling life. However, this longitudinal study conclusively demonstrates this critical relationship.

A particularly virulent blame game is under way. Most conservatives criticize liberals or progressives for spending too much money on programs of dubious impact on the market-driven economy and its so-called “trickle down” feature.

Most liberals castigate the right for the growing divide between the haves and the have nots and how that is negatively affecting the health and wealth of low-income people. Are we witnessing the evisceration of the disadvantaged groups and consequently the slow and gradual debilitation of the middle class?

Will the citizenry rise from its dormant state in intermittent spasms or in dramatic and radical uprising? This dark and mostly cogent interpretation of this relationship is goading some of us to be sleepwalking to disaster.

Some policymakers have this warped understanding that their prescriptions would help the vulnerable and the disenfranchised. They are in this colorful bubble of self-defeating grandiloquence.

That disconnect has fueled much of the frustration and anxiety that have propelled from politics to religion to challenge the political establishment and the elite that have rattled more that some nerves.

Should expectations be heightened by this longitudinal study and how to address some of the critical and pressing issues raised by its far-reaching claims and momentous conclusions?

Many will pour cold water on the gaping omissions and ubiquitous disregard of other key factors in the study. Will this research propel the obvious and compelling truth into a realm of fantasy and obliviousness?

For billions of people around the world, this feeling of helplessness and eventually hopelessness is growing and more and more people are living in poverty because of of serious lack of adequate health care. These statistics are powerful and deeply painful considering  the medical advances made in the West and, by extension, the rest of the world.

Many consider the attitude of some corporations and governments shameful, reflecting a contempt for human dignity and a failure to understand the long-term consequences of affordable and accessible health care.

How do we tackle this challenging brew of empirical and anecdotal evidence?

Of course, any collective effort to address this crucial issue will come at a heavy cost. It is outrageous that the political and economic barons are offering the less fortunate a paltry means of reconciling themselves to a reality they are powerless to change.

The United States is the only major developed country without medical services provided to all. Millions of Americans do not have basic access to medical care. This intractable caste system lingers below the widespread and fallacious narrative of economic miracle.

Modernity brought new stubbornly unresolvable problems, and the continual need and pressure to modify socioeconomic structures to accommodate the emerging tensions and paradoxes of an evolving society.

In order to conceal our unwillingness and inability/incompetence, we wage a psychological warfare of fingerpointing, blaming, and shaming the hardworking and underpaid masses. All this feeds into the toxic attitude and actions of some economic groups.

They are finding themselves trapped in an autocratic system over which they have no influence. Political and economic freedoms are diminished if basic human needs are unmet.

Is health care a human right, as some argue?

Unsavory policy making and so-called meritocratic self-advancement have gradually tainted and discredited democratic values and threatened and crippled democratic institutions. Unfortunately, these baleful socioeconomic policies and principles have more often obfuscated than illuminated the human mind and advancement.

A cartoon published in The New Yorker magazine once mocked the American justice system when an attorney asked his client: “How much justice can you afford?” The same question can be asked by the health-care system to a person who needs medical attention: “How much health care can you afford?”

Is it a matter of binary alternatives?

Do people and neighborhoods have to suffer alienation and decay? Isn’t there a way to address this momentous issue without polarizing our societies? Is human self-centeredness the fundamental impediment to the jettisoning of this outdated and pernicious framework that has blinded so many people to meaningful historical changes?

For too long we have maintained an incoherent constellation of assumptions about humanity, society, and economics. These assumptions are not irreversible nor unassailable. It is a tapestry often woven together by threads of privilege, prejudice, and selfishness.

The wealthy and the powerful are exploiting so-called economic crises and cultural conflicts to manipulate the global economic system and governance into a hugely misconceived and potentially self-defeating policy. Having exacerbated the powerlessness and frustration of the hardworking people, the economic elite is resorting to scare tactics to maintain the status-quo. For example, they vehemently promote the notion that “our way of life” would be threatened by a universal and affordable/accessible health-care system thus implying that free-market capitalism and the free-enterprise system would eventually collapse in the event that such a universal health coverage is introduced.

Fortunately, more and more economists and policy makers are convinced that a universal health-care system would benefit everyone, including the wealthy and the powerful.

These might seem illusory and utopian goals, but the adverse consequences of neglect and abuse are inconceivable and inhumane.

It is time to make it happen.



About the author

Vahe Tcharkhoutian is the founder and editor of Los Angeles Intelligence. He holds a Master of Arts degree in Political Science [American Politics] and a Master of Arts degree in Educational Administration. He currently teaches in Glendale, California.