Background: Various measures are used to represent socioeconomic status (SES) in health research, including income. However, reliability of income data can be low. Household expenditures are an accepted proxy for income as a more reliable measure but have been studied little in refugee populations.

Methods: Health and SES measures from cross-sectional surveys of Iraqi refugees in Jordan and Syria were analyzed using logistic regression to assess the interchangeability of household income and expenditures.

Results: In Jordan, odds ratios in the regression models including income quartiles were frequently similar to odds ratios found in the models including expenditure quartiles, indicating interchangeability. In Syria, fewer similarities were observed.

Conclusions: This study provides some evidence that household expenditures may be used interchangeably with household income for some populations, allowing for the potential collection and use of data related to expenditures as a measure of SES, similar in importance to that of income.