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Mortality, Income, and Income Inequality over Time in Britain and the United States

In: Perspectives on the Economics of Aging

  • Angus S. Deaton
  • Christina Paxson

We investigate age-specific mortality in Britain and the United States since 1950. Neither trends in income nor in income inequality provide plausible explanations. Britain and the US had different patterns of income growth but similar patterns of mortality decline. Patterns of income inequality were similar in both countries, but adult and elderly mortality rates declined most rapidly during the period when inequality increased. Changes in the rate of mortality decline in the US led changes in Britain by about four years, most notably for infant and older adult mortality where there have been significant technical improvements in treatment. British mortality is lower, but the schedules cross at around age 65. This pattern was established before Medicare, and most likely comes from rationing by age in Britain. Merged income, income inequality, and mortality data on an age/year (or cohort/year) basis show no evidence that income has any effect on mortality in Britain. Education is protective, but less so than in the US. Understanding the effect of income on mortality presents many puzzles, between countries, and between analyses at different levels of aggregation. Our results suggest an important role for medical technology in determining the rate of mortality decline since 1950.

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This chapter was published in:
  • David A. Wise, 2004. "Perspectives on the Economics of Aging," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number wise04-1, May.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 10345.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:10345
    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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    1. Christopher J. Ruhm, 2000. "Are Recessions Good For Your Health?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(2), pages 617-650, May.
    2. Michael Hurd & Daniel McFadden & Angela Merrill, 1999. "Predictors of Mortality Among the Elderly," NBER Working Papers 7440, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Richard Blundell & Ian Preston, 1998. "Consumption Inequality And Income Uncertainty," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(2), pages 603-640, May.
    4. Atkinson, A.B. & Brandolini, A., 2000. "Promise and Pitfalls in the Use of 'Secondary' Data -Sets: Income Inequality in OECD Countries," Papers 379, Banca Italia - Servizio di Studi.
    5. Hongyi Li & Lyn Squire & Tao Zhang & Heng-fu Zou, 1999. "A Data Set on Income Distribution," CEMA Working Papers 575, China Economics and Management Academy, Central University of Finance and Economics.
    6. Angus Deaton & Darren Lubotsky, 2001. "Mortality, Inequality and Race in American Cities and States," NBER Working Papers 8370, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Gottschalk, Peter & Smeeding, Timothy M., 2000. "Empirical evidence on income inequality in industrialized countries," Handbook of Income Distribution, in: A.B. Atkinson & F. Bourguignon (ed.), Handbook of Income Distribution, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 5, pages 261-307 Elsevier.
    8. Anne Case & Darren Lubotsky & Christina Paxson, 2002. "Economic status and health in childhood: the origins of the gradient," Working Papers 262, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
    9. Orazio P. Attanasio & Carl Emmerson, 2003. "Mortality, Health Status, and Wealth," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 1(4), pages 821-850, 06.
    10. Gerdtham, Ulf-G. & Jonsson, Bengt, 2000. "International comparisons of health expenditure: Theory, data and econometric analysis," Handbook of Health Economics, in: A. J. Culyer & J. P. Newhouse (ed.), Handbook of Health Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 1, pages 11-53 Elsevier.
    11. Klaus Deininger & Lyn Squire, 1996. "A New Data Set Measuring Income Inequality," CEMA Working Papers 512, China Economics and Management Academy, Central University of Finance and Economics.
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