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Scott W Hegerty
''A Comparison of Tract-Level, Nationwide Indices of Economic Deprivation''
( 2019, Vol. 39 No.1 )
Indices of socioeconomic deprivation, which combine a number of variables into a single measure, are often used in public health and other fields to examine geographic disparities in health outcomes and quality of life. Much of the research using these indices has been conducted outside the United States, and often focuses heavily on urban areas. This study uses Principal Component Analysis (PCA) to combine a set of socioeconomic variables for more than 72,000 Census tracts in all 50 U.S. states to construct a set of deprivation indices for the year 2015. These measures are highly correlated with one another and with measures that use a different weighting scheme. A comparison of our main index with a simpler measure—tract-level poverty rates—show the two to be highly correlated, but that the deprivation index value is higher than predicted by poverty alone. This is particularly true when spatial autocorrelation is incorporated into the model. An analysis of only the 14,000 tracts within the largest cities shows less of a discrepancy between these two measures, but that spatial autocorrelation is still an issue. Deprivation indices, therefore, are shown to capture more than just poverty, particularly when geography is taken into account, for both urban and rural areas.
Keywords: Economic deprivation, Spatial distribution, United States, Census tracts
JEL: I3 - Welfare and Poverty: General
C1 - Econometric and Statistical Methods: General
Manuscript Received : Dec 03 2018 Manuscript Accepted : Feb 18 2019

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