Socioeconomic Differences in the Adoption of New Medical Technologies

Dana Goldman, James P. Smith

NBER Working Paper No. 11218
Issued in March 2005
NBER Program(s):Health Care

New medical technologies hold tremendous promise for improving population health, but they also raise concerns about exacerbating already large differences in health by socioeconomic status (SES). If effective treatments are more rapidly adopted by the better educated, SES health disparities may initially expand even though the health of those in all groups eventually improves. Hypertension provides a useful case study. It is an important risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease, the condition is relatively common, and there are large differences in rates of hypertension by education. This paper examines the short and long-term diffusion of two important classes of anti-hypertensives - ACE inhibitors and calcium channel blockers - over the last twenty-five years. Using three prominent medical surveys, we find no evidence that the diffusion of these drugs into medical practice favored one education group relative to another. The findings suggest that - at least for hypertension - SES differences in the adoption of new medical technologies are not an important reason for the SES health gradient.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w11218

Published: Goldman, Dana and James P. Smith. "Socioeconomic Differences In The Adoption Of New Medical Technologies," American Economic Review, 2005, v95(2,May), 234-237. citation courtesy of

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