Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to shed some light on the large differences between poor and rich Brazilian households regarding children's outcomes; that is, understanding inequality in health outcomes in the childhood in Brazil, examining the link between the health of Brazilian children and a variety of socioeconomic factors. Design/methodology/approach – Logit models for some measures of child health (poor health, chronic diseases, hospitalization and visits to doctors and dentists). Individuals are grouped according to their income decile. Independent variables comprise indicators of socioeconomic status and demographic variables, primarily related to the family structure. Findings – Results suggest that the true effect of family structure is more complex than the biological relationship of parents to children. There are large effects of family income distribution on child health indicators. When control variables are included, the magnitude of these effects changes. The addition of mothers' educational attainment to the set of controls reduces the estimated income effects. Also, the gradient in the health-income relationship is a little steeper for older children. Originality/value – Although there are numerous studies investigating the impact of family resources on health outcomes, whether income and family structure truly matters is still a debated issue. Brazil presents a huge level of income and until recently there has been little data with which to assess the nature and magnitude of the role, which socioeconomic factors play in the incidence and severity of health problems. The authors originally attempt to understand what it means to talk about inequality in health, and whether health inequality in Brazil is linked to income inequality.