The purpose of this dissertation is to address institutional factors that may be the root cause of health disparities. Misdirected resources may help to explain why health disparities have actually increased as targeted interventions aimed at their elimination have proliferated. This dissertation examines the impacts of potential causal mechanisms on health disparities in a low-socioeconomic status population. Rather than simply reporting descriptive statistics of populations in which health disparities exist, policies can be formulated that begin to address these causal mechanisms and eliminate health disparities if closer attention is paid to the fundamental causes of health disparities. Two institutional variables are examined in the two chapters of this dissertation: transportation access to mental health services and relative health as measured by the health of proximate individuals. The theory of relative health was developed specifically for this dissertation. Data from the 2012 Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems and the 2012 5-year estimates from the U.S. Census American Community Survey were used.