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The Cost of Cyclical Mortality

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  • Edwards Ryan D

    () (Queens College, City University of New York)

Abstract

Sustained growth in both incomes and life spans are the hallmarks of modern development. Fluctuations around trend in the former, or business cycles, have been a traditional focus in macroeconomics, while similar cyclical patterns in mortality are also interesting and are now increasingly studied. In this paper, I assess the welfare implications of cyclical fluctuations in mortality using a new utility-theoretic model of preferences over uncertain length of life. Echoing the classic result of Lucas (1987) regarding business cycles, my findings suggest that short-term fluctuations in mortality are not very costly. While consumption fluctuations are relatively large, cyclical fluctuations in mortality are tiny compared to the much larger static uncertainty in length of life that derives from naturally rising mortality rates through age. Secular improvements in life expectancy and gains against static health inequalities appear to be much more important than cyclical mortality.

Suggested Citation

  • Edwards Ryan D, 2009. "The Cost of Cyclical Mortality," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 9(1), pages 1-19, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:bejmac:v:9:y:2009:i:1:n:7
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Fernando Alvarez & Urban J. Jermann, 2004. "Using Asset Prices to Measure the Cost of Business Cycles," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(6), pages 1223-1256, December.
    2. Antoine Bommier, 2006. "Uncertain Lifetime And Intertemporal Choice: Risk Aversion As A Rationale For Time Discounting," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 47(4), pages 1223-1246, November.
    3. Noreen Goldman & Graham Lord, 1986. "A new look at entropy and the life table," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 23(2), pages 275-282, May.
    4. Edwards, Ryan, 2008. "Who is hurt by procyclical mortality?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 67(12), pages 2051-2058, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ryan Edwards, 2013. "The cost of uncertain life span," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 26(4), pages 1485-1522, October.
    2. Shripad Tuljapurkar & Ryan D. Edwards, 2011. "Variance in death and its implications for modeling and forecasting mortality," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 24(21), pages 497-526, March.

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