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Differences in health between Americans and Western Europeans: Effects on longevity and public finance

Author

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  • Michaud, Pierre-Carl
  • Goldman, Dana
  • Lakdawalla, Darius
  • Gailey, Adam
  • Zheng, Yuhui

Abstract

In 1975, 50 year-old Americans could expect to live slightly longer than most of their Western European counterparts. By 2005, American life expectancy had fallen behind that of most Western European countries. We find that this growing longevity gap is primarily due to real declines in the health of near-elderly Americans, relative to their Western European peers. We use a microsimulation approach to project what US longevity would look like, if US health trends approximated those in Western Europe. The model implies that differences in health can explain most of the growing gap in remaining life expectancy. In addition, we quantify the public finance consequences of this deterioration in health. The model predicts that gradually moving American cohorts to the health status enjoyed by Western Europeans could save up to $1.1 trillion in discounted total health expenditures from 2004 to 2050.

Suggested Citation

  • Michaud, Pierre-Carl & Goldman, Dana & Lakdawalla, Darius & Gailey, Adam & Zheng, Yuhui, 2011. "Differences in health between Americans and Western Europeans: Effects on longevity and public finance," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 73(2), pages 254-263, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:73:y:2011:i:2:p:254-263
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2003. "Why Have Americans Become More Obese?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(3), pages 93-118, Summer.
    2. Viscusi, W Kip & Aldy, Joseph E, 2003. "The Value of a Statistical Life: A Critical Review of Market Estimates throughout the World," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 27(1), pages 5-76, August.
    3. David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser, 2009. "Why Do Europeans Smoke More than Americans?," NBER Chapters,in: Developments in the Economics of Aging, pages 255-282 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Goldman, Dana & Michaud, Pierre-Carl & Lakdawalla, Darius & Zheng, Yuhui & Gailey, Adam & Vaynman, Igor, 2010. "The Fiscal Consequences of Trends in Population Health," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 63(2), pages 307-330, June.
    5. Lakdawalla, Darius & Philipson, Tomas, 2009. "The growth of obesity and technological change," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 283-293, December.
    6. repec:reg:rpubli:282 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Samuel H. Preston & Jessica Y. Ho, 2009. "Low Life Expectancy in the United States: Is the Health Care System at Fault?," NBER Working Papers 15213, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Peter Adams & Michael D. Hurd & Daniel L. McFadden & Angela Merrill & Tiago Ribeiro, 2004. "Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise? Tests for Direct Causal Paths between Health and Socioeconomic Status," NBER Chapters,in: Perspectives on the Economics of Aging, pages 415-526 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Silvia Balia, 2014. "Survival expectations, subjective health and smoking: evidence from SHARE," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 47(2), pages 753-780, September.
    2. Datta Gupta, Nabanita & Kleinjans, Kristin J. & Larsen, Mona, 2015. "The effect of a severe health shock on work behavior: Evidence from different health care regimes," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 136, pages 44-51.

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