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Inequality and Mortality: Long-Run Evidence from a Panel of Countries

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  • Andrew Leigh
  • Christopher Jencks

Abstract

We investigate whether changes in economic inequality affect mortality in rich countries. To answer this question we use a new source of data on income inequality: tax data on the share of pretax income going to the richest 10 percent of the population in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, and the US between 1903 and 2003. Although this measure is not a good proxy for inequality within the bottom half of the income distribution, it is a good proxy for changes in the top half of the distribution and for the Gini coefficient. In the absence of country and year fixed effects, the income share of the top decile is negatively related to life expectancy and positively related to infant mortality. However, in our preferred fixed-effects specification these relationships are weak, statistically insignificant, and likely to change their sign. Nor do our data suggest that changes in the income share of the richest 10 percent affect homicide or suicide rates.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 533.

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Date of creation: Aug 2006
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Handle: RePEc:auu:dpaper:533

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Keywords: health; inequality; mortality; top incomes; homicide; suicide;

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  1. Angus Deaton & Christina Paxson, 2001. "Mortality, Income, and Income Inequality Over Time in Britain and the United States," NBER Working Papers 8534, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Alberto Alesina & Reza Baqir & William Easterly, 1997. "Public Goods and Ethnic Divisions," NBER Working Papers 6009, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Hugh Gravelle & John Wildman & Matthew Sutton, . "Income, Income Inequality and Health: What can we Learn from Aggregate Data?," Discussion Papers 00/26, Department of Economics, University of York.
  4. Angus Deaton, 2002. "Health, inequality, and economic development," Working Papers 209, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Research Program in Development Studies..
  5. Angus Deaton, 2001. "Relative Deprivation, Inequality, and Mortality," NBER Working Papers 8099, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Waldmann, Robert J, 1992. "Income Distribution and Infant Mortality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(4), pages 1283-302, November.
  7. Fajnzylber, Pablo & Lederman, Daniel & Loayza, Norman, 2002. "Inequality and Violent Crime," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 45(1), pages 1-40, April.
  8. Alesina, Alberto & La Ferrara, Eliana, 2002. "Who trusts others?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(2), pages 207-234, August.
  9. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson & Pierre Yared, 2005. "From Education to Democracy?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 44-49, May.
  10. Meltzer, Allan H & Richard, Scott F, 1981. "A Rational Theory of the Size of Government," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 914-27, October.
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Cited by:
  1. Mark R. Cullen & Clint Cummins & Victor R. Fuchs, 2012. "Geographic and Racial Variation in Premature Mortality in the US: Analyzing the Disparities," NBER Working Papers 17901, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Layte, Richard & Nolan, Anne, 2013. "Socioeconomic Differentials in Male Mortality in Ireland: 1984-2008," Papers WP470, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
  3. Mary C. Daly & Daniel J. Wilson, 2013. "Inequality and mortality: new evidence from U.S. county panel data," Working Paper Series 2013-13, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  4. Ana I. Balsa & Michael T. French & Tracy L. Regan, 2014. "Relative Deprivation and Risky Behaviors," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 49(2), pages 446-471.
  5. Böckerman, Petri, 2010. "Top income shares and mortality: Evidence from advanced countries," MPRA Paper 19970, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  6. Blum, Matthias, 2013. "The influence of inequality on the standard of living: Worldwide anthropometric evidence from the 19th and 20th centuries," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 436-452.
  7. Owen O'Donnell & Eddy Van Doorslaer & Tom Van Ourti, 2013. "Health and Inequality," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 13-170/V, Tinbergen Institute.
  8. Pulok, Mohammad Habibullah, 2012. "Revisiting Health and Income Inequality Relationship:Evidence from Developing Countries," MPRA Paper 39766, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  9. Lixin Cai, 2008. "Be Wealthy to Stay Healthy: An Analysis of Older Australians Using the HILDA Survey," Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series wp2008n08, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne.
  10. Zheng, Hui, 2012. "Do people die from income inequality of a decade ago?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(1), pages 36-45.
  11. Nilsson, Therese & Bergh, Andreas, 2012. "Income Inequality and Individual Health: Exploring the Association in a Developing Country," Working Papers 2012:1, Lund University, Department of Economics.
  12. Grönqvist, Hans & Johansson, Per & Niknami, Susan, 2012. "Income inequality and health: Lessons from a refugee residential assignment program," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 617-629.
  13. Thomas Maag, 2008. "Economic Correlates of Suicide Rates in OECD Countries," KOF Working papers 08-207, KOF Swiss Economic Institute, ETH Zurich.
  14. Okada, Keisuke & Samreth, Sovannroeun, 2013. "A study on the socio-economic determinants of suicide: Evidence from 13 European OECD countries," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 78-85.
  15. Hans Grönqvist & Per Johansson & Susan Niknami, 2011. "Income Inequality and Health: Lessons from a Residential Assignment Program," Norface Discussion Paper Series 2011017, Norface Research Programme on Migration, Department of Economics, University College London.
  16. Katja Hanewald, 2008. "Beyond the business cycle - factors driving aggregate mortality rates," SFB 649 Discussion Papers SFB649DP2008-031, Sonderforschungsbereich 649, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany.
  17. Dierk Herzer & Peter Nunnenkamp, 2011. "Income Inequality and Health: New Evidence from Panel Data," Kiel Working Papers 1736, Kiel Institute for the World Economy.
  18. Justina AV Fischer & Antonio Rodriguez-Andrés, 2008. "Political institutions and suicide: A regional analysis of Switzerland," TWI Research Paper Series 33, Thurgauer Wirtschaftsinstitut, Universität Konstanz.

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