Almost 17 percent of black children and 20.5 percent of Latino children in the United States live in “double jeopardy,” meaning that they live in both poor families and poor neighborhoods, according to research released today in the March/April issue of Health Affairs. In contrast, only 1.4 percent of white children live in double jeopardy.

In addition, poor white children are more likely than poor black or Latino children to live in better neighborhoods. A typical poor white child lives in a neighborhood where the poverty rate is 13.6 percent, while a typical poor black child lives in a neighborhood where the poverty level is nearly 30 percent. A typical poor Latino child lives in a neighborhood where the poverty rate is 26 percent. According to researchers Dolores Acevedo-Garcia, an associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, and colleagues, the type of neighborhood one lives in plays a significant role in racial and ethnic health disparities.

The study is part of a thematic Health Affairs issue on disparities in health, titled Disparities: Expanding The Focus, that examines the link between racial and ethnic disparities and health status and health care. Some highlights from the issue, published with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, include:

Education Affects Life Expectancy. Despite increased attention during the 1980s and 1990s to reducing disparities in life expectancy among the educationally disadvantaged, the educational gap in life expectancy is rising. Between the 1980s and 2000, life expectancy increases occurred nearly exclusively among highly educated groups, according to research from Ellen Meara, an assistant professor of health economics at Harvard Medical School, and colleagues.

Policymakers Must View Oral Health As Essential. Oral health is not given the same priority as general health in health care policy, despite research that shows links between oral health and overall health, say researchers Susan Fisher-Owens (free access for two weeks), an assistant clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues. The researchers review disparities in oral health and call for more diversity within the dental workforce, incentives for providers to work in areas where there is a shortage of dentists, programs that address inequalities in dental services, and better public insurance coverage for dental care.

Watch for a series of posts on health disparities beginning this week on the Health Affairs Blog. 

Blog Update: Here are some links to what other bloggers are saying about research from the issue. The Boston Globe’s health blog has a lively set of comments on disparities. Health Disparities Blog out of Case Western Reserve University is planning a series of posts. In Connecticut, CT Health Notes Blog weighs in.