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Health Shocks and Couples' Labor Supply Decisions

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  • Courtney C. Coile

Abstract

Unexpected health events such as a heart attack or new cancer diagnosis are very common for workers in their 50s and 60s. These health shocks can result in a significant loss in family income if the worker reduces labor supply, but the family can also protect itself against this loss if the worker's spouse increases labor supply, generating an "added worker effect." In this paper, I examine the effect of health shocks on the labor supply of both spouses using the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). I find that shocks lead the affected worker to reduce labor supply dramatically, particularly if the shock is accompanied by a loss of functioning. I also find that the added worker effect is small for men and that there is no such effect for women. There is some evidence to suggest that families respond to health shocks in predictable ways depending on characteristics such as access to retiree health insurance. The study concludes that health shocks result in real financial losses for families and are an important source of financial risk for older households.

Suggested Citation

  • Courtney C. Coile, 2004. "Health Shocks and Couples' Labor Supply Decisions," NBER Working Papers 10810, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10810
    Note: AG LS
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Michael Baker, 2002. "The Retirement Behavior of Married Couples: Evidence from the Spouse's Allowance," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 37(1), pages 1-34.
    2. James Smith, 2005. "Consequences and Predictors of New Health Events," NBER Chapters,in: Analyses in the Economics of Aging, pages 213-240 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Michael Baker & Mark Stabile & Catherine Deri, 2004. "What Do Self-Reported, Objective, Measures of Health Measure?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(4).
    4. Ashenfelter, Orley, 1980. "Unemployment as Disequilibrium in a Model of Aggregate Labor Supply," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(3), pages 547-564, April.
    5. Coile Courtney, 2004. "Retirement Incentives and Couples' Retirement Decisions," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 4(1), pages 1-30, July.
    6. Mark B. McClellan, 1998. "Health Events, Health Insurance, and Labor Supply: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Survey," NBER Chapters,in: Frontiers in the Economics of Aging, pages 301-350 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Michael D. Hurd, 1990. "The Joint Retirement Decision of Husbands and Wives," NBER Chapters,in: Issues in the Economics of Aging, pages 231-258 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Gruber, Jonathan & Madrian, Brigitte C, 1995. "Health-Insurance Availability and the Retirement Decision," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(4), pages 938-948, September.
    9. Hanoch, Giora & Honig, Marjorie, 1983. "Retirement, Wages, and Labor Supply of the Elderly," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 1(2), pages 131-151, April.
    10. Dwyer, Debra Sabatini & Mitchell, Olivia S., 1999. "Health problems as determinants of retirement: Are self-rated measures endogenous?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 173-193, April.
    11. Gloria J. Bazzoli, 1985. "The Early Retirement Decision: New Empirical Evidence on the Influence of Health," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 20(2), pages 214-234.
    12. Bound, John & Schoenbaum, Michael & Stinebrickner, Todd R. & Waidmann, Timothy, 1999. "The dynamic effects of health on the labor force transitions of older workers," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(2), pages 179-202, June.
    13. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 1994. "Retirement in a Family Context: A Structural Model for Husbands and Wives," NBER Working Papers 4629, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Chirikos, Thomas N. & Nestel, Gilbert, 1984. "Economic determinants and consequences of self-reported work disability," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 117-136, August.
    15. Jonathan Gruber & Julie Berry Cullen, 1996. "Spousal Labor Supply as Insurance: Does Unemployment Insurance Crowd Outthe Added Worker Effect?," NBER Working Papers 5608, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Lundberg, Shelly, 1985. "The Added Worker Effect," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(1), pages 11-37, January.
    17. Kathryn H. Anderson & Richard V. Burkhauser, 1985. "The Retirement-Health Nexus: A New Measure of an Old Puzzle," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 20(3), pages 315-330.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J14 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of the Elderly; Economics of the Handicapped; Non-Labor Market Discrimination
    • J26 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Retirement; Retirement Policies

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