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

Author

Listed:
  • Leigh, Andrew

    (Australian National U)

  • Jencks, Christopher

    (Harvard U)

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

  • Leigh, Andrew & Jencks, Christopher, 2006. "Inequality and Mortality: Long-Run Evidence from a Panel of Countries," Working Paper Series rwp06-032, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp06-032
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    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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    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior

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