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Income and economic exclusion: do they measure the same concept?

Emilie Renahy1*, Beatriz Alvarado-Llano2, Maria Koh1 and Amélie Quesnel-Vallée13

Author Affiliations

1 McGill University, Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Occupational Health, International Research Infrastructure on Social inequalities in health (IRIS), Peterson Hall, Room 328, 3460 McTavish Street, Montreal, QC H3A 1X9, Canada

2 Queens University, Department of Epidemiology and Community Health, Carruthers Hall Office 205, 62 Fifth Field Company Lane, Kingston, ON, K7L 3N6, Canada

3 McGill University, Department of Sociology, Leacock Building, Room 712, 855 Sherbrooke Street West, Montreal, Quebec H3A 2T7, Canada

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International Journal for Equity in Health 2012, 11:4  doi:10.1186/1475-9276-11-4

Published: 27 January 2012



In this paper, we create an index of economic exclusion based on validated questionnaires of economic hardship and material deprivation, and examine its association with health in Canada. The main study objective is to determine the extent to which income and this index of economic exclusion index are overlapping measurements of the same concept.


We used the Canadian Household Panel Survey Pilot and performed multilevel analysis using a sample of 1588 individuals aged 25 to 64, nested within 975 households.


While economic exclusion is inversely correlated with both individual and household income, these are not perfectly overlapping constructs. Indeed, not only these indicators weakly correlated, but they also point to slightly different sociodemographic groups at risk of low income and economic exclusion. Furthermore, the respective associations with health are of comparable magnitude, but when these income and economic exclusion indicators are included together in the same model, they point to independent and cumulative, not redundant effects.


We explicitly distinguish, both conceptually and empirically, between income and economic exclusion, one of the main dimensions of social exclusion. Our results suggest that the economic exclusion index we use measures additional aspects of material deprivation that are not captured by income, such as the effective hardship or level of economic 'well-being'.

Income; economic exclusion; economic hardship; material deprivation; self-rated health; health inequalities