Date of Award

August 2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Zengwang Xu

Committee Members

Woonsup Choi, Ryan Holifield


milwaukee, opioid, social determinants of health, spatial econometrics


Mortality from opioid overdose has become the leading cause of non-natural death in Milwaukee County, WI in recent years. In order to better understand the opioid epidemic and formulate pro-active responses to the crisis at the local level, this study examines the spatial prevalence and associated factors of opioid overdoses that end in mortality in Milwaukee, WI using the spatial econometrics model. The social determinants of health framework is used to identify the potential related socioeconomic factors associated with opioid abuse. Using principal component analysis, 6 primary components were identified from the chosen social determinants and used as explanatory variables in the econometric analysis. The age-adjusted standardized mortality rate was calculated for each census tract to be used as the dependent variable in the analysis. Socioeconomic status, a prevalence of labor occupations, and the age composition of an area were identified as the variables with a significant contribution to high overdose mortality rates, both directly and indirectly. This study reveals the overall contribution that socioeconomic factors have on the opioid epidemic, indicating the underlying socioeconomic conditions need to be addressed in order to see a reduction in opioid overdose fatalities.