Barnett, R., Moon, G. and Kearns, R.
Social inequality and ethnic differences in smoking in New Zealand
Social Science & Medicine, 59, (1), . (doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2003.10.010).
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This study tests a generalisation of the ‘Wilkinson’ thesis that the greater a nation’s income inequality, the poorer the
average national health status. We consider the effect of socio-economic inequality upon ethnic variations in smoking in
New Zealand. Analysis of Maori and Pakeha (New Zealanders of European descent) smokingrates from the 1996
Census is conducted for 73 Territorial Local Authority areas in New Zealand, disaggregated by gender and rural–urban
location. Partial correlation is used to control for absolute levels of deprivation and examine the independent effect of
ethnic social inequality upon smokingrates. The level of social inequality between Maori and Pakeha has an
independent effect on Maori smokingrates. Pakeha smokingrates by contrast are more sensitive to variations in
absolute rather than relative deprivation. The effect of inequality is greatest for Maori women, especially among urban
residents. By contrast, amongMaori men the effects are greatest in rural areas. The results provide some qualified
support for the Wilkinson thesis and suggest that policies which address fundamental issues of social inequality will play
a small, but significant, role in helping to reduce high smoking rates amongst Maori.
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