The Relationship Between Adolescent Suicide and Income Inequality

Lauraless Harris M.P.A., University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth

Abstract

Harris, Lauralee. The Relationship Between Adolescent Suicide and Income Inequality. Doctor of Public Health (Social and Behavioral), December 2007, 52 pp., 22 tables, 4 figures, references, 43 titles. Suicide is the third leading cause for adolescents in the United States. This study is an attempt to provide a tool for targeting suicide prevention efforts using measures of income inequality. Income inequality measurements included the Gini coefficient and housing value as a percent of median value of single family homes. The study included youth ages 13-21 who committed suicide in Tarrant County, Texas during a ten-year period. Analysis was conducted at the zip code level and included suicide rates, housing value, gender, ethnicity and age. Hypotheses were: there is a positive relationship between the Gini coefficient and suicide rates; there is a relationship between suicide and the median value of housing in the zip code; these relationships will be stronger for males than females. Results of regression analysis showed a positive linear relationship between the Gini coefficient and suicide, though it did not reach the .05 level of significance. The relationship was stronger for males than females. The relationship was stronger for Hispanics and Blacks than for Whites. Frequencies for the relationship between percent of median home value and suicide indicated suicides clustering within 20% +/- of the median for the zip code. Analyses of variance did not show a relationship between percent of median home value and age, gender or ethnicity. These findings do not support the use of Gini coefficient as a predictor for adolescent suicide, but do provide some support for focusing prevention efforts on youth who are near the median income within their zip code. Recommendations are made for further research into the relationship of adolescent suicide and income inequality and for strategies to minimize the effects of relative deprivation.