Social and Economic Factors

Social and economic factors, such as income, education, employment, community safety, and social supports can significantly affect how well and how long we live. These factors affect our ability to make healthy choices, afford medical care and housing, manage stress, and more.

The social and economic opportunities we have, such as good schools, stable jobs, and strong social networks are foundational to achieving long and healthy lives. For example, employment provides income that shapes choices about housing, education, child care, food, medical care, and more. In contrast, unemployment limits these choices and the ability to accumulate savings and assets that can help cushion in times of economic distress.

Social and economic factors are not commonly considered when it comes to health, yet strategies to improve these factors can have an even greater impact on health over time than those traditionally associated with health improvement, such as strategies to improve health behaviors.

Across the nation, there are meaningful differences in social and economic opportunities for residents in communities that have been cut off from investments or have experienced discrimination. These gaps disproportionately affect people of color – especially children and youth.

In the Social & Economic Factors area of the County Health Rankings we look at:

  • Education, showing who in a community has graduated high school or attended some college in addition to the percentage of teens and young adults ages 16-19 who are neither working nor in school.
  • Employment, detailing unemployment statistics.
  • Income, looking at children in poverty and income inequality.
  • Family & Social Support, providing information on children in single-parent households and access to social opportunities.
  • Community Safety, measuring violent crime and injury deaths.