Understanding How Low–Socioeconomic Status Households Cope with Health Shocks: An Analysis of Multisector Linked Data

Image of two people at a food bank

Health shocks negatively impact low socioeconomic status households, as they are least likely to have wealth to cover associated expenses or loss of income, are most likely to move and less likely to visit food distribution centers. Understanding the interplay of health and economic and food insecurity can inform the development of better social policies and interventions.


Low–socioeconomic status (SES) households have little income or wealth to buffer against the negative impacts of adverse health events among adult household members. This research project links data from a nonprofit food distribution center, electronic medical records from a safety-net healthcare system, and publicly available residential appraisals for more than 3,000 households to provide insight into how low-SES households cope with health shocks experienced by resident adults. Three broad types of strategies are examined: changes in household structure, residential mobility, and use of social services. Of the households studied, 20.2 percent had at least one adult member who experienced a health shock. These households were more likely to gain additional adult household members and employed household members, were more likely to move residence and to move distances greater than one mile, and were less likely to visit the food distribution center after the shock. This research highlights how novel data linkages can help us to understand how health and social policies impact vulnerable populations.

Journal: The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.

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