An understanding of factors influencing health in socioeconomic groups is required to reduce health inequalities. This study investigated combinations of health determinants associated with self-rated health (SRH), and their relative importance, in income-based groups. Cross-sectional data from year 15 (2000 - 2001) of the CARDIA study (Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults, USA) - 3648 men and women (mean 40 years) - were split into 5 income-based groups. SRH responses were categorized as higher/lower. Health determinants (medical, lifestyle, and social factors, living conditions) associated with SRH in each group were analyzed using classification tree analysis (CTA). Income and SRH were positively associated (p < 0.05). Data suggested an income-based gradient for lifestyle/medical/social factors/living conditions. Profiles, and relative importance ranking, of multi-domain health determinants, in relation to SRH, differed by income group. The highest ranking variable for each income group was chronic burden-personal health problem (<$25,000); physical activity ($25-50,000; $50-75,000; $100,000 +); and cigarettes/day ($75-100,000). In lower income groups, more risk factors and chronic burden indicators were associated with SRH. Social support, control over life, optimism, and resources for paying for basics/medical care/health insurance were greater (%) with higher income. SRH is a multidimensional measure; CTA is useful for contextualizing risk factors in relation to health status. Findings suggest that for lower income groups, addressing contributors to chronic burden is important alongside lifestyle/medical factors. In a proportionate universalism context, in addition to differences in intensity of public health action across the socioeconomic gradient, differences in the type of interventions to improve SRH may also be important.