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Inequality and Mortality: Long-Run Evidence from a Panel of Countries

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  • Andrew Leigh
  • Christopher Jencks

Abstract

We investigate whether changes in economic inequality affect mortality in rich countries. To answer this question we use a new source of data on income inequality: tax data on the share of pretax income going to the richest 10 percent of the population in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, and the US between 1903 and 2003. Although this measure is not a good proxy for inequality within the bottom half of the income distribution, it is a good proxy for changes in the top half of the distribution and for the Gini coefficient. In the absence of country and year fixed effects, the income share of the top decile is negatively related to life expectancy and positively related to infant mortality. However, in our preferred fixed-effects specification these relationships are weak, statistically insignificant, and likely to change their sign. Nor do our data suggest that changes in the income share of the richest 10 percent affect homicide or suicide rates.

Suggested Citation

  • Andrew Leigh & Christopher Jencks, 2006. "Inequality and Mortality: Long-Run Evidence from a Panel of Countries," CEPR Discussion Papers 533, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  • Handle: RePEc:auu:dpaper:533
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    File URL: https://www.cbe.anu.edu.au/researchpapers/cepr/DP533.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Angus Deaton, 2003. "Health, Inequality, and Economic Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 41(1), pages 113-158, March.
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    7. Angus S. Deaton & Christina Paxson, 2004. "Mortality, Income, and Income Inequality over Time in Britain and the United States," NBER Chapters,in: Perspectives on the Economics of Aging, pages 247-286 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    9. Fajnzylber, Pablo & Lederman, Daniel & Loayza, Norman, 2002. "Inequality and Violent Crime," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 45(1), pages 1-40, April.
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    12. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1997:87:9:1491-1498_6 is not listed on IDEAS
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    health; inequality; mortality; top incomes; homicide; suicide;

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • N30 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - General, International, or Comparative

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