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Death, Dollars and Degrees: Socio-economic Status and Longevity in Australia


  • This paper uses unit record data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey. The HILDA Project was initiated and is funded by the Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) and is managed by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research (MIAESR). The findings and views reported in this paper, however, are those of the authors and should not be attributed to either the FaHCSIA or the MIAESR. We are grateful to Jenny Chesters and Susanne Schmidt for outstanding research assistance, and Mathias Sinning for assistance with the dataset. Philip Clarke was supported by a NHMRC Career Development Award (ID 571122). Editor Harry Clarke and an anonymous reviewer provided valuable comments on an earlier draft.

Philip Clarke, School of Public Health, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia. Email:


We estimate differences in mortality and life expectancy by levels of income, education and area-based socio-economic status using the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey. The study involved 16,905 respondents aged over twenty years interviewed between 2001 and 2007. Mortality estimates were based on proportional hazard regression models. The relative risk of mortality between the poorest and richest income quintile was 1.88 (1.45, 2.44) times higher and this translated into a life expectancy gap (at age twenty) of six years. Having more than twelve years of education was also associated with a significantly lower risk of death. Area-based measures of socio-economic disadvantage were not significant after controlling for individual-level factors.