Based on data from the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey (CLHLS), this paper calculates the health distribution of the elderly using the Quality of Well-Being Scale (QWB) score, and then estimates health inequality among the elderly in rural China using the Wagstaff index (WI) and Erreygers index (EI). Following this, it compares health inequalities among the elderly in different age groups, and finally, uses the Shapley and recentered influence function-index-ordinary least squares (RIF-I-OLS) model to decompose the effect of four factors on health inequality among the elderly in rural China. The QWB score distribution shows that the health of the elderly in rural China improved with social economic development and medical reform from 2002 to 2014. However, at the same time, we were surprised to find that the health level of the 65–74 years old group has been declining steadily since 2008. This phenomenon implies that the incidence of chronic diseases is moving towards the younger elderly. The WI and EI show that there is indeed pro-rich health inequality among the rural elderly, the health inequality of the younger age groups is more serious than that of the older age groups, and the former incidence of health inequality is higher. Health inequality in the age group of 65–74 years old is higher than that in other groups, and the trend of change fluctuated downward from 2002 to 2014. Health inequality in the age group of 75–84 years old is lower than that in the group of 65–74 years old, but higher than that in the other age groups. The results of Shapley decomposition show that demographic characteristics, socioeconomic status (SES), health care access, and quality of later life contributed 0.0054, 0.0130, 0.0442, and 0.0218 to the health inequality index of the elderly, which accounted for 6.40%, 15.39%, 52.41%, and 25.80% of health inequality index. From the results of RIF-I-OLS decomposition, this paper has analyzed detailed factors’ marginal effects on health inequality from four dimensions, which indicates that the health inequality among the elderly in rural China was mainly caused by the disparity of income, medical expenses, and living arrangement.
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