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The Importance of Objective Health Measures in Predicting Early Receipt of Social Security Benefits: The Case of Fatness

  • Richard Burkhauser

    (Cornell University)

  • John Cawley

    (Cornell University)

Theoretical models argue that poor health will contribute to early exit from the labor market and the decision to take early Social Security retirement benefits (Old-Age or OA benefits). However, most empirical estimates of the causal importance of health on the decision to take early OA benefits have been forced to rely on global measures such as self-rated work limitations or self-rated health. We contribute to the empirical literature by using a more objective measure of health, fatness, to predict early receipt of OA benefits. We do so by estimating the causal impact of fatness within an empirical model using the method of instrumental variables, and testing the robustness of our findings using the most common measure of fatness in the social science literature - body mass index - with what is a more theoretically appropriate measure of fatness - total body fat and percent body fat. Overall, our conclusion is that fatness and obesity are strong predictors of early receipt of OA benefits.

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File URL: http://www.mrrc.isr.umich.edu/publications/Papers/pdf/wp148.pdf
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Paper provided by University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center in its series Working Papers with number wp148.

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Length: 39 pages
Date of creation: Dec 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mrr:papers:wp148
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  1. Darius Lakdawalla & Dana Goldman & Jay Bhattacharya, 2001. "Are the Young Becoming More Disabled?," NBER Working Papers 8247, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Burkhauser, Richard V. & Cawley, John, 2008. "Beyond BMI: The value of more accurate measures of fatness and obesity in social science research," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 519-529, March.
  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. Bound, John & Stinebrickner, Todd & Waidmann, Timothy, 2010. "Health, economic resources and the work decisions of older men," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 156(1), pages 106-129, May.
  5. Shin-Yi Chou & Michael Grossman & Henry Saffer, 2002. "An Economic Analysis of Adult Obesity: Results from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System," NBER Working Papers 9247, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Janet Currie & Brigitte C. Madrian, 1998. "Health, Health Insurance and the Labor Market," JCPR Working Papers 27, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  7. Richard V. Burkhauser & John Cawley, 2004. "Obesity, Disability, and Movement Onto the Disability Insurance Rolls," Working Papers wp089, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  8. Dalton Conley & Rebecca Glauber, 2005. "Gender, Body Mass and Economic Status," NBER Working Papers 11343, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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