Confounding by Socioeconomic Status in Epidemiological Studies of Air Pollution and Health: Challenges and Opportunities.

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From: Environmental Health Perspectives(Vol. 129, Issue 6)
Publisher: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Document Type: Report
Length: 11,350 words
Lexile Measure: 1430L

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Abstract :

Background: Despite a vast air pollution epidemiology literature to date and the recognition that lower-socioeconomic status (SES) populations are often disproportionately exposed to pollution, there is little research identifying optimal means of adjusting for confounding by SES in air pollution epidemiology, nor is there a strong understanding of biases that may result from improper adjustment. Objective: We aim to provide a conceptualization of SES and a review of approaches to its measurement in the U.S. context and discuss pathways by which SES may influence health and confound effects of air pollution. We explore bias related to measurement and operationalization and identify statistical approaches to reduce bias and confounding. Discussion: Drawing on the social epidemiology, health geography, and economic literatures, we describe how SES, a multifaceted construct operating through myriad pathways, may be conceptualized and operationalized in air pollution epidemiology studies. SES varies across individuals within the contexts of place, time, and culture. Although no single variable or index can fully capture SES, many studies rely on only a single measure. We recommend examining multiple facets of SES appropriate to the study design. Furthermore, investigators should carefully consider the multiple mechanisms by which SES might be operating to identify those SES indicators that may be most appropriate for a given context or study design and assess the impact of improper adjustment on air pollution effect estimates. Last, exploring model contraction and expansion methods may enrich adjustment, whereas statistical approaches, such as quantitative bias analysis, may be used to evaluate residual confounding. https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP7980

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A667734651