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Healthy Bodies and Thick Wallets: The Dual Relation between Health and Economic Status

  • James P. Smith

This paper sketches theoretical reasons why health may alter household savings and provides evidence on the empirical impact of health shocks on household wealth. The impacts on saving are quantitatively large and only partly explained by increased out-of-pocket medical expenses. Other contributing factors include reduced earnings and a revision in life expectancy. The author also delves into reasons why economic status, access to medical care, and deleterious personal behaviors have been rejected as insufficient explanations. New theories emphasize long-term impacts of early childhood or even intrauterine factors, cumulative effects of prolonged exposures to stress, or reactions of macrosocietal factors like rising levels of income inequality.

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.13.2.145
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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 13 (1999)
Issue (Month): 2 (Spring)
Pages: 145-166

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:13:y:1999:i:2:p:145-166
Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.13.2.145
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  1. Michael Grossman, 1972. "The Demand for Health: A Theoretical and Empirical Investigation," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number gros72-1.
  2. James P. Smith, 2004. "Inheritances and Bequests," Labor and Demography 0408012, EconWPA.
  3. Lillard, L.A. & Weiss, Y., 1996. "Uncertain Health and Survival: Efefcts on End-of-Life Consumption," Papers 7-96, Tel Aviv.
  4. R. Glenn Hubbard & Jonathan Skinner & Stephen P. Zeldes, 1994. "Precautionary Saving and Social Insurance," NBER Working Papers 4884, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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