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Decomposing socioeconomic inequality for binary health outcomes: an improved estimation that does not vary by choice of reference group

Vasoontara Yiengprugsawan*, Lynette LY Lim, Gordon A Carmichael, Keith BG Dear and Adrian C Sleigh

Author Affiliations

The Australian National University, National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, ANU College of Medicine, Biology & Environment, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia

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BMC Research Notes 2010, 3:57  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-3-57

Published: 4 March 2010



Decomposition of concentration indices yields useful information regarding the relative importance of various determinants of inequitable health outcomes. But the two estimation approaches to decomposition in current use are not suitable for binary outcomes.


The paper compares three estimation approaches for decomposition of inequality concentration indices: Ordinary Least Squares (OLS), probit, and the Generalized Linear Model (GLM) binomial distribution and identity link. Data are from the Thai Health and Welfare Survey 2003. The OLS estimates do not take into account the binary nature of the outcome and the probit estimates depend on the choice of reference groups, whereas the GLM binomial identity approach has neither of these problems.


The GLM with binomial distribution and identity link allows the inequality decomposition model to hold, and produces valid estimates of determinants that do not vary according to choice of reference groups. This GLM approach is readily available in standard statistical packages.