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Estimating the causal effect of income on health: Evidence from post-reunification Germany

Author

Listed:
  • Michael A. Shields
  • Paul Frijters
  • John Haisken-DeNew

Abstract

In this paper we investigate if there was a causal effect of changes in current and 'permanent' income on the health of East Germans in the years following reunification. Reunification was completely unanticipated and therefore can be seen as a providing some exogenous variation, which resulted in a substantial increase in average household incomes for East Germans. Our data source is the German Socio-Economic Panel (GSOEP) between 1991 and 2002, and we fit fixed-effects estimators to our ordinal health measures. Whilst the exogeneity of reunification allows us to establish the causality between income and health, the fixed-effects methodology additionally enables us to control for individual unobservable heterogeneity such as parental background and general attitudes to health. We also provide new evidence on how major life-events impact on health, and we pay close attention to the issue of panel attrition, given that there might be endogenous exits from the panel if the unhealthy are more likely to drop out of the sample. Using cross-sectional variations in income and health we find evidence of a significant positive effect of current income on health. However, after controlling for heterogeneity and using a new decomposition of the fixed-effects estimates, we find no evidence that increased income leads to improved health. This is the case with respect to current income and a measure of 'permanent' income and two alternative definitions of health

Suggested Citation

  • Michael A. Shields & Paul Frijters & John Haisken-DeNew, 2004. "Estimating the causal effect of income on health: Evidence from post-reunification Germany," Econometric Society 2004 Australasian Meetings 151, Econometric Society.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecm:ausm04:151
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Cristina Hernandez-Quevedo & Andrew M Jones & Nigel Rice, "undated". "Reporting Bias and Heterogeneity in Self-Assessed Health. Evidence from the British Household Panel Survey," Discussion Papers 04/18, Department of Economics, University of York.
    2. David Cantarero & Marta Pascual, 2005. "Regional Differences In Health In Spain - An Empirical Analysis," ERSA conference papers ersa05p551, European Regional Science Association.
    3. Doyle, Orla & Harmon, Colm P. & Walker, Ian, 2005. "The Impact of Parental Income and Education on the Health of their Children," IZA Discussion Papers 1832, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Income; Health; German Reunification; Panel Data; Attrition;

    JEL classification:

    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics
    • C23 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Models with Panel Data; Spatio-temporal Models
    • C25 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Discrete Regression and Qualitative Choice Models; Discrete Regressors; Proportions; Probabilities
    • I - Health, Education, and Welfare

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