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International Differences in Longevity and Health and Their Economic Consequences


  • Michaud, Pierre-Carl

    () (HEC Montreal)

  • Goldman, Dana P.

    () (RAND)

  • Lakdawalla, Darius N.

    () (RAND)

  • Zheng, Yuhui

    () (RAND)

  • Gailey, Adam H.



In 1975, 50 year-old Americans could expect to live slightly longer than their European counterparts. By 2005, American life expectancy at that age has diverged substantially compared to Europe. We find that this growing longevity gap is primarily the symptom of real declines in the health of near-elderly Americans, relative to their European peers. In particular, we use a microsimulation approach to project what US longevity would look like, if US health trends approximated those in Europe. We find that differences in health can explain most of the growing gap in remaining life expectancy. In addition, we quantify the public finance consequences of this deterioration in health. The model predicts that gradually moving American cohorts to the health status enjoyed by Europeans could save up to $1.1 trillion in discounted total health expenditures from 2004 to 2050.

Suggested Citation

  • Michaud, Pierre-Carl & Goldman, Dana P. & Lakdawalla, Darius N. & Zheng, Yuhui & Gailey, Adam H., 2009. "International Differences in Longevity and Health and Their Economic Consequences," IZA Discussion Papers 4367, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4367

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Goldman Dana P & Cutler David M & Shang Baoping & Joyce Geoffrey F, 2006. "The Value of Elderly Disease Prevention," Forum for Health Economics & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 9(2), pages 1-29, January.
    2. Tatiana Andreyeva & Pierre-Carl Michaud & Arthur Van Soest, 2005. "Obesity and Health in Europeans Ages 50 and Above," Working Papers WR-331, RAND Corporation.
    3. Darius Lakdawalla & Tomas Philipson, 2002. "The Growth of Obesity and Technological Change: A Theoretical and Empirical Examination," Working Papers 0203, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
    4. Pierre-Carl Michaud & Dana Goldman & Darius Lakdawalla & Yuhui Zheng & Adam Gailey, 2009. "Understanding the Economic Consequences of Shifting Trends in Population Health," NBER Working Papers 15231, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Viscusi, W Kip & Aldy, Joseph E, 2003. "The Value of a Statistical Life: A Critical Review of Market Estimates throughout the World," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 27(1), pages 5-76, August.
    6. Peter Adams & Michael D. Hurd & Daniel L. McFadden & Angela Merrill & Tiago Ribeiro, 2004. "Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise? Tests for Direct Causal Paths between Health and Socioeconomic Status," NBER Chapters,in: Perspectives on the Economics of Aging, pages 415-526 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1994:84:1:20-28_9 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser, 2009. "Why Do Europeans Smoke More than Americans?," NBER Chapters,in: Developments in the Economics of Aging, pages 255-282 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Arie Kapteyn & Pierre-Carl Michaud & James P. Smith & Arthur Van Soest, 2006. "Effects of Attrition and Non-Response in the Health and Retirement Study," Working Papers WR-407, RAND Corporation.
    10. Rogers, Richard G. & Powell-Griner, Eve, 1991. "Life expectancies of cigarette smokers and nonsmokers in the United States," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 32(10), pages 1151-1159, January.
    11. repec:reg:rpubli:282 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Kapteyn, Arie & Michaud, Pierre-Carl & Smith, James P. & van Soest, Arthur, 2006. "Effects of Attrition and Non-Response in the Health and Retirement Study," IZA Discussion Papers 2246, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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    Cited by:

    1. Samuel H. Preston & Jessica Y. Ho, 2009. "Low Life Expectancy in the United States: Is the Health Care System at Fault?," NBER Working Papers 15213, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item


    international comparisons; mortality; disability; microsimulation;

    JEL classification:

    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
    • J26 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Retirement; Retirement Policies

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