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Broke, Ill, and Obese: The Effect of Household Debt on Health

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  • Matthias Keese
  • Hendrik Schmitz

Abstract

We analyze the effect of household indebtedness on different health outcomes using data from the German Socio-Economic Panel from 1999-2009. To establish a causal effect, we rely on (a) fixed-effects methods, (b) a subsample of constantly employed individuals, and (c) lagged debt variables to rule out problems of reverse causality. We apply different measures of household indebtedness, such as the percentage shares of household income spent on consumer credit and home loan repayments (which indicate the severity of household indebtedness) and a binary variable of relative overindebtedness (which indicates a precarious debt situation). We find all debt measures to be strongly correlated with health satisfaction, mental health, and obesity. Controlling for unobserved heterogeneity and reversed causality we find evidence that household debt also causally deteriorates physical and mental health. However, there is no causal effect on being obese.

Suggested Citation

  • Matthias Keese & Hendrik Schmitz, 2010. "Broke, Ill, and Obese: The Effect of Household Debt on Health," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 350, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  • Handle: RePEc:diw:diwsop:diw_sp350
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Leonardo Becchetti & Stefano Caiazza & Decio Coviello, 2013. "Financial education and investment attitudes in high schools: evidence from a randomized experiment," Applied Financial Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 23(10), pages 817-836, May.
    2. Averett, Susan L. & Smith, Julie K., 2014. "Financial hardship and obesity," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 15(C), pages 201-212.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Debt; health satisfaction; mental health; obesity; fixed-effects;

    JEL classification:

    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior

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