Wealth Effect and Dental Care Utilization in the United States

Published in: Journal of Public Health Dentistry, v. 72, no. 3, Summer 2012, p. 179-189

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2012

by Richard J. Manski, John F. Moeller, Haiyan Chen, Patricia A. St. Clair, Jody Schimmel, John V. Pepper

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this article is to examine the relationship of wealth and income and the relative impact of each on dental utilization in a population of older Americans, using data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). METHODS: Data from the HRS were analyzed for US individuals aged 51 years and older during the 2008 wave of the HRS. The primary focus of the analysis is the relationship between wealth, income, and dental utilization. We estimate a multivariable model of dental use controlling for wealth, income, and other potentially confounding covariates. RESULTS: We find that both wealth and income each have a strong and independent positive effect on dental care use of older Americans (P < 0.05). A test of the interaction between income and wealth in our model failed to show that the impact on dental care utilization as wealth increases depends on a person's income level or, alternatively, that the impact on dental use as income increases depends on a person's household wealth status (P > 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: Relative to those living in the wealthiest US households, the likelihood of utilizing dental care appears to decrease with a decline in wealth. The likelihood of utilizing dental care also appears to decrease with a decline in income as well.

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