Socioeconomic inequalities in health are smaller among women than among men. In this paper, it is hypothesized that this is due to a gender difference in employment status.
We used data from the baseline of a Dutch longitudinal study. The socioeconomic indicators were educational level of the respondent and occupational level of the main breadwinner. Logistic regression was used to assess the size of socioeconomic inequalities in the prevalence of chronic conditions and less than 'good' perceived general health.
The smaller socioeconomic inequalities in health among women were partly due to a less pronounced concentration among women than among men of relatively unhealthy employment status categories (unemployed, long-term work-disabled) in lower socioeconomic groups. The smaller inequalities in perceived general health among women could also partly be explained by the smaller overall size of the group of unemployed/long-term disabled/early retired among women than among men, a group which is characterized by relatively large inequalities in health.
These findings suggest that in the Netherlands the tow proportion of women in paid employment, and thereby the low proportion of the unemployed/long-term disabled/early retired, explains part of the smaller socioeconomic inequalities in health among women. The more pronounced concentration of those with a long-term work disability in lower socioeconomic groups among men, also points at the importance of working conditions for the gender difference in the size of socioeconomic inequalities in health.