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The human capital model

In: Handbook of Health Economics


  • Grossman, Michael


This chapter contains a detailed treatment of the human capital model of the demand for health which was originally developed in 1972. Theoretical predictions are discussed, and theoretical extensions of the model are reviewed. Empirical research that tests the predictions of the model or studies causality between years of formal schooling completed and good health is surveyed. The model views health as a durable capital stock that yields an output of healthy time. Individuals inherit an initial amount of this stock that depreciates with age and can be increased by investment. The household production function model of consumer behavior is employed to account for the gap between health as an output and medical care as one of many inputs into its production. In this framework the "shadow price" of health depends on many variables besides the price of medical care. It is shown that the shadow price rises with age if the rate of depreciation on the stock of health rises over the life cycle and falls with education (years of formal schooling completed) if more educated people are more efficient producers of health. An important result is that, under certain conditions, an increase in the shadow price may simultaneously reduce the quantity of health demanded and increase the quantities of health inputs demanded.

Suggested Citation

  • Grossman, Michael, 2000. "The human capital model," Handbook of Health Economics, in: A. J. Culyer & J. P. Newhouse (ed.), Handbook of Health Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 7, pages 347-408, Elsevier.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:heachp:1-07

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    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health


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