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Love, Toil, and Health Insurance: Why American Husbands Retire When They Do

  • Joshua Congdon-Hohman


    (Department of Economics, College of the Holy Cross)

The provision of health insurance has previously been shown to be an important determinant of retirement timing among older Americans, but the existing literature has largely ignored some aspects of the inter-spousal dependence of health insurance benefits. Specifically, the literature examines only how retirement may affect the health insurance available to the potential retiree but not how it might affect a spouse's options. Using data from the Health and Retirement Study, I find that the impact a husband's retirement might have on a wife's health insurance options has a statistically significant impact on a husband's rate of retirement that is independent of considerations of his own health insurance options. In households where the wife is the only one at risk of losing affordable health insurance if the husband retires, the husband is 30 percent less likely to retire than if neither spouse is at risk (a five percentage point decrease in the retirement rate). Based on these findings, prior research is missing one avenue that changes to the Medicare eligibility age and health insurance policy changes through the Affordable Care Act might impact the labor supply of older workers.

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Paper provided by College of the Holy Cross, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 1115.

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Length: 49 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hcx:wpaper:1115
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  1. Kanika Kapur & Jeannette Rogowski, 2007. "The Role of Health Insurance in Joint Retirement among Married Couples," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 60(3), pages 397-407, April.
  2. Ai, Chunrong & Norton, Edward C., 2003. "Interaction terms in logit and probit models," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 80(1), pages 123-129, July.
  3. Eric French & John Bailey Jones, 2011. "The Effects of Health Insurance and Self‐Insurance on Retirement Behavior," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 79(3), pages 693-732, 05.
  4. John Rust & Christopher Phelan, 1997. "How Social Security and Medicare Affect Retirement Behavior in a World of Incomplete Markets," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(4), pages 781-832, July.
  5. Thomas C. Buchmueller & Robert G. Valletta, 1996. "The effect of health insurance on married female labor supply," Working Papers in Applied Economic Theory 96-09, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  6. Joshua Congdon-Hohman, 2006. "The Impact of Health Insurance Availability on Retirement Decision Reversals," Working Papers wp137, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  7. David A. Wise, 2001. "Themes in the Economics of Aging," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number wise01-1.
  8. Erin Strumpf, 2010. "Employer-sponsored health insurance for early retirees: impacts on retirement, health, and health care," International Journal of Health Care Finance and Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 105-147, June.
  9. David A. Wise, 2001. "Introduction to "Themes in the Economics of Aging"," NBER Chapters, in: Themes in the Economics of Aging, pages 1-20 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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