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“Healthy, Wealthy and Wise?” Revisited: An Analysis of the Causal Pathways from Socioeconomic Status to Health

In: Investigations in the Economics of Aging

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  • Till Stowasser
  • Florian Heiss
  • Daniel McFadden
  • Joachim Winter

Abstract

Much has been said about the stylized fact that the economically successful are not only wealthier but also healthier than the less affluent. There is little doubt about the existence of this socio-economic gradient in health, but there remains a vivid debate about its source. In this paper, we review the methodological challenges involved in testing the causal relationships between socio-economic status and health. We describe the approach of testing for the absence of causal channels developed by Adams et al. (2003) that seeks identification without the need to isolate exogenous variation in economic variables, and we repeat their analysis using the full range of data that have become available in the Health and Retirement Study since, both in terms of observations years and age ranges covered. This analysis shows that causal inference critically depends on which time periods are used for estimation. Using the information of longer panels has the greatest effect on results. We find that SES causality cannot be ruled out for a larger number of health conditions than in the original study. An approach based on a reduced-form interpretation of causality thus is not very informative, at least as long as the confounding influence of hidden common factors is not fully controlled.

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This chapter was published in:

  • David A. Wise, 2012. "Investigations in the Economics of Aging," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number wise11-2, July.
    This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 12443.

    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:12443

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    References

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    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
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    1. James P. Smith, 1999. "Healthy Bodies and Thick Wallets: The Dual Relation between Health and Economic Status," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(2), pages 145-166, Spring.
    2. Adda, Jerome & Chandola, Tarani & Marmot, Michael, 2003. "Socio-economic status and health: causality and pathways," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 112(1), pages 57-63, January.
    3. Adams, Peter & Hurd, Michael D. & McFadden, Daniel & Merrill, Angela & Ribeiro, Tiago, 2003. "Healthy, wealthy, and wise? Tests for direct causal paths between health and socioeconomic status," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 112(1), pages 3-56, January.
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    Cited by:
    1. G. Brunello & M. Fort & N. Schneeweis & R. Winter-Ebmer, 2011. "The Causal Effect of Education on Health: What is the Role of Health Behaviors?," Working Papers wp788, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
    2. Till Stowasser & Florian Heiss & Daniel McFadden & Joachim Winter, 2013. "Understanding the SES Gradient in Health Among the Elderly: The Role of Childhood Circumstances," NBER Chapters, in: Discoveries in the Economics of Aging, pages 187-219 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Layte, Richard & Nolan, Anne, 2013. "Socioeconomic Inequalities in Child Health in Ireland," Papers WP453, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
    4. Brunello, Giorgio & Fort, Margherita & Schneeweis, Nicole & Winter-Ebmer, Rudolf, 2011. "The Causal Effect of Education on Health," Economics Series 280, Institute for Advanced Studies.
    5. Francesco Bartolucci & Federico Belotti & Franco Peracchi, 2013. "Testing for Time-Invariant Unobserved Heterogeneity in Generalized Linear Models for Panel Data," EIEF Working Papers Series 1312, Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance (EIEF), revised May 2013.

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