Future Directions for the National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Reports

Table 4-2: Measures of Absolute and Relative Health Disparity

Measure Description
Measures of Absolute Disparity
Rate Difference Simple arithmetic difference between two groups (usually between the less-advantaged group and the more-advantaged group).
Between-Group Variance The sum of squared deviations from a population average. The variance that would exist in the population if each individual had the average health of their social group.
Absolute Concentration Index Measures the extent to which health or illness is concentrated among a particular group.
Slope Index of Inequality Absolute difference in health status between the bottom and top of the social group distribution.
Measures of Relative Disparity
Rate Ratio Measures the relative difference in the rates of the best and worst group.
Index of Disparity Summarizes the difference between several group rates and a reference rate and expresses the summed differences as a proportion of the reference rate.
Relative Concentration Index Measures the extent to which health or illness is concentrated among a particular group.
Relative Index of Inequality Measures the proportionate rather than the absolute increase or decrease in health between the highest and lowest group.
Theil Index and Mean Log Deviation Measures of disproportionality. Summaries of the difference between the natural logarithm of shares of health and shares of population.

Note: Although this table is on measures of health disparities rather than health care disparities, the same concepts can be applied to measuring disparities in health care performance.

Source: Harper and Lynch, 2007.

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Page last reviewed October 2014
Internet Citation: Table 4-2: Measures of Absolute and Relative Health Disparity. October 2014. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/research/findings/final-reports/iomqrdrreport/futureqrdrtab4-2.html