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Welfare Spending and Mortality Rates for the Elderly Before the Social Security Era

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  • Adrian Stoian
  • Price V. Fishback

Abstract

We analyze the impact of the original means-tested Old Age Assistance (OAA) programs on the health of the elderly prior to the first Social Security pension payments. Before 1935 a number of states had enacted their own OAA laws. After 1935 the federal government began offering matching grants and thus stimulated the adoption of OAA programs by the states. A new panel data set of 75 cities for each year between 1929 and 1938 combines mortality rates for older age groups with three measures of the OAA programs, spending on non-age-specific relief and a rich set of correlates. The data are analyzed using difference-in-difference-in-difference and instrumental variables methods. Our results suggest that Old Age Assistance in the 1930s had little impact on the death rate of the elderly. Our sense is that the OAA programs in the 1930s transferred the elderly from general relief programs without necessarily increasing the resources available to them.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14970.

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Date of creation: May 2009
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Publication status: published as Stoian, Adrian & Fishback, Price, 2010. "Welfare spending and mortality rates for the elderly before the Social Security era," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 47(1), pages 1-27, January.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14970

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Cited by:
  1. Price Fishback & Samuel Allen & Jonathan Fox & Brendan Livingston, 2010. "A Patchwork Safety Net: A Survey Of Cliometric Studies Of Income Maintenance Programs In The United States In The First Half Of The Twentieth Century," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 24(5), pages 895-940, December.
  2. Price V. Fishback, 2012. "Relief During the Great Depression in Australia and America," CEH Discussion Papers 005, Centre for Economic History, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  3. Jonathan F. Fox, 2011. "Public health, poor relief and improving urban child mortality outcomes in the decade prior to the New Deal," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2011-005, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.

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