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2020 State TOP ESSAYS

Tyler Greiner, CR Jefferson, State 2020

Essay Prompt: Discuss the relevance of socioeconomic status and its connection to health disparities. Use your knowledge from the USAD Economics Resource Guide to support your essay.

 Health disparities between the upper and lower class has existed since the dawn of the industrial revolution. Over the years many different theories have arisen as to the cause of these disparities. Health disparities between socioeconomic classes are due to differences in activated genes, stress loads, value of money, and level of education.

     The first thing to undertstand before going forward is the nobel prize winning Grossman model. The Grossman model theorizes that the demand for health care is downward sloping. This means that individuals consume healthcare less if prices increase, which was and still is a huge debate. Going off this model is important for understanding the following theories.

     Genes can lead individuals to have poor health later in life. While it is true genes can lead to a random assortment of health benefits and issues in life, this does not exactly have a predictable pattern that can be conencted to socioeconomic status. However the Thrifty Gene hypothesis postulates that there is a gene that can active in the fetal or infant stage of life from poor nutrition. This in turn activates a gene that tells the body to hoard fat which is not well suited for a life with abundant resources. Following World War Two this hypothesis was studied in the post war Netherlands. The study was called the Dutch Famine study and it followed the heath of children who were exposed to famine conditions during the war. After these children grew up, the study observed that those exposed to famine had numerous health problems. Expanding on the theory it can be assumed that those who are of lower socioeconomic status are more prone to have children exposed to poor nutrition than those of higher socioeconomic status. Thus is can be observed from this theory that those of lower socioeconomic status will have higher rates of this Thrifty gene that leads them to have poor health in comparison to those of higher socioeconomic status.

     The level of stress has also been observed to have lead to poor health. The allostatic load theory postulates that stress is another driver behind the higher rates of health issues among those in the lower socioeconomic category. The starts off explaining that our fight or flight mechanism is still wired to help us run away from "Saber toothed tigers"(USAD Guide) and this is not exactly detrimental to helping us in our modern lifestyles. Every time this fight or flight response activates, we are overloaded with horomones and chemicals that increase our heart rate, move blood from the heart to the muscles, etc. So when individuals are stressed on a daily basis for the majority of their life the body begins to break down from the load of stress presented upon it and leads to poor health later in life. So expanding on this the theory points out how those of the lower socioeconomic status face this stress a lot more then those of higher socioeconomic status so those in the lower status will face more health issues down the road then those of higher status.

     Money plays a huge role in improving health, especial with affording health services. The theory states that the marginal value of a dollar is different between socioeconomic statuses. Theory explains that individuals who are in a lower socioeconomic category value a dollar more then those of higher socioeconomic status because that next dollar could gauruntee another meal the next day. On the other hand individuals placed in higher socioeconomic status value the dollar less because they have gaurunteed meals and shelter that dont require scrounging up enough money to make ends meet. Because of these different attitudes towards money, the theory believes that indidviuals of higher socioeconomc status are more willing/able to get healthcare services because they are able to take the economic hit. This theory is a major reinforcement of the Grossman model giving a expainable reason as to why the deman for healthcare is downward sloping.

     Education can make a sizable impact on ones health. The last theory is that the more educated an individual is, the better their health will be. This theory believes that individuals with better education can follow medical reigems better and are more disiplined to understand investment in health, such as exercise and diet, is fully worthwhile. The theory even has data showing that the life expectancy between those had one year of college education was three times as long as those who had not finished highschool. Using this data it was found every extra year of education can be expected to increase ones life expectancy by five months. Education is not cheap, and using the previous idea of the marginal value of a dollar, it is not far fetched to see the results of education being reflected socioeconomically. With college today being expensive, it is easy to see that those of lower socioeconomic status will turn down education more than those of highersocioeconomic status.

     There is one refutation to the differences of socioeconomic status's health. In the 1980's the RAND HIE experiment looked at the frequncy of healthcare for those with different insuarance plans ranging from complete coverage to five percent coverage. the results from this experiment showed that regardless of the frequency these individuals had check ups or hospital visits that they all had the same mortality rate. This adds a fascinating twist to understanding the connections be health of an individual and their socioeconomic status. However this is mortality rate and not the actual health of the individual and there is not enough data to refute the evidence previously states.

     So clearly, health disparities between socioeconomic statusses are because of activated genes, stress, value of money, and level of education.


Ella Hommel, Grundy Center/Dike New Hartford, State 2020

Essay Prompt: Discuss the relevance of socioeconomic status and its connection to health disparities. Use your knowledge from the USAD Economics Resource Guide to support your essay.

    Throughout the vast majority of history, the socioeconomic status of the family one was born into has played a large role in the outcome of one's life. From ancient times until now, having an advantage in socioeconomic status has usually indicated a "better" life, or at least an "easier" one. Today, although the introduction of health insurance has changed the way medical bills are paid, there is still a gap in quality of health between the rich and the poor. This essay will explore a few of the selected theories from the USAD study guide about the role of socioeconomic status in healthcare, and how this issue can be exemplified in modern day in the cases of insurance and experimental treatments. 

    First, the USAD study guide discusses several theories about how socioeconomic status can influence health of individuals. One way is how poor people have an increased perceived value of the dollar. They are less likely to take work off to stay home and recover from an illness because the money they would have earned that day is worth more to them than their health at the moment. In addition, this applies to medications. If forced to choose between a medication with an extremely high copay that would make their health better or continuing to feel sick, many will choose the latter. In the case of health, a fifty dollar copayment is a seemingly much higher number for the poor than the rich. The next theory is how poor people have worse health than their better-off counterparts because of their mother's nutrition while in the womb. Because unhealthy foods are generally cheaper than fruits or vegetables, mothers with less socioeconomic status are more likely to choose the former. The correlation between poverty and obesity is well-known in America. Not only could this theory be applied to fast food over vegetables, but also the use of cigarettes or alcohol while pregnant. This theory suggests that because expecting mothers are likely not eating the same quality of foods as peers who are better-off, the children from these mothers will have decreased health as a result. This theory was supported by a study that looked at children from mothers who were going through the Irish potato famine during their pregnancy. The study found that the offspring of these mothers had far more long term health issues than peers who did not have the same circumstances. This provides support for the idea that the health of an expecting mother has a large impact on her offspring years down the road. A third theory discussed in the study guide is the increased value of health for people who are not poor. This theory suggests that people who are better-off are likely to have a higher quality of life -with possibly less stress- and because they are happier, they value taking care of their health more. In a sense, poor people have "less to lose", so they will not be as driven to take proactive steps to ensure good health in the future. 

    Secondly, in today's society, the issue of socioeconomic status influencing health outcomes is still present. It is not surprising that the life expectancy for citizens of different countries varies vastly between countries that are generally well-off, and those that are not. One example of this would be several African nations, whose life expectancy for its citizens is generally around the late forties to early fifties. In contrast, the country of Monaco, a country that is known for being a tax haven for the rich has one of the world's highest life expectancies, somewhere in the eighties. In the United States, this can play a role especially in insurance choice. People who can afford decent insurance that covers many medications and treatments are likely to benefit from those services. In contrast, those on Medicare or Medicaid -the United States' government insurance programs- are not likely to receive the same expansive coverage of expensive treatments. This is partly because economically, both programs could not be sustainable if they offered and covered every possibly beneficial medical treatment. However, this still creates a gap in health outcomes for those with different income levels. This is an issue that the Affordable Care Act of 2009 aimed to remedy. By expanding the guidelines of who could qualify for Medicaid, the goal was to insure more people. Having those people insured, who likely could not afford any insurance at all beforehand could be see as an attempt to expand medical access for those with lower socioeconomic status. This mandate also expanded the services that would be covered under both programs, giving those on it more treatment options that would be affordable to them. Another issue is access to experimental procedures. Medicaid is not likely to cover a trip to Canada to obtain medicines that have not yet been approved by the FDA, but the privately wealthy would have that option. Gaining access to treatments that could be life-saving is still generally a privilege for those at the top of the economic scale. 

    In conclusion, this essay discussed several theories about how the health gap between the rich and poor continues to exist, and how this gap can still be seen in today's society. Even as equality for all people, regardless of socioeconomic status, remains a goal for both the United States and countries in the rest of the world, the evidence suggests that goal has not yet been acheived.