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

Listed author(s):
  • Michaud, Pierre-Carl
  • Goldman, Dana
  • Lakdawalla, Darius
  • Gailey, Adam
  • Zheng, Yuhui

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.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

Volume (Year): 73 (2011)
Issue (Month): 2 (July)
Pages: 254-263

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Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:73:y:2011:i:2:p:254-263
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  1. Lakdawalla, Darius & Philipson, Tomas, 2009. "The growth of obesity and technological change," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 283-293, December.
  2. Shapiro, Jesse & Glaeser, Edward & Cutler, David, 2003. "Why Have Americans Become More Obese," Scholarly Articles 2640583, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Adams, Peter & Hurd, Michael D. & McFadden, Daniel & Merrill, Angela & Ribeiro, Tiago, 2003. "Healthy, wealthy, and wise? Tests for direct causal paths between health and socioeconomic status," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 112(1), pages 3-56, January.
  6. David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser, 2006. "Why Do Europeans Smoke More than Americans?," NBER Working Papers 12124, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Rogers, Richard G. & Powell-Griner, Eve, 1991. "Life expectancies of cigarette smokers and nonsmokers in the United States," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 32(10), pages 1151-1159, January.
  8. Christopher J. Ruhm, 2007. "Current and Future Prevalence of Obesity and Severe Obesity in the United States," NBER Working Papers 13181, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. 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, vol. 63(2), pages 307-330, June.
  10. repec:reg:rpubli:282 is not listed on IDEAS
  11. Kevin M. White, 2002. "Longevity Advances in High-Income Countries, 1955-96," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 28(1), pages 59-76.
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