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"Healthy, Wealthy and Wise?" Revisited: An Analysis of the Causal Pathways from Socio-economic Status to Health

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Listed:
  • Till Stowasser
  • Florian Heiss
  • Daniel McFadden
  • Joachim Winter

Abstract

Much has been said about the stylized fact that the economically successful are not only wealthier but also healthier than the less affluent. There is little doubt about the existence of this socio-economic gradient in health, but there remains a vivid debate about its source. In this paper, we review the methodological challenges involved in testing the causal relationships between socio-economic status and health. We describe the approach of testing for the absence of causal channels developed by Adams et al. (2003) that seeks identification without the need to isolate exogenous variation in economic variables, and we repeat their analysis using the full range of data that have become available in the Health and Retirement Study since, both in terms of observations years and age ranges covered. This analysis shows that causal inference critically depends on which time periods are used for estimation. Using the information of longer panels has the greatest effect on results. We find that SES causality cannot be ruled out for a larger number of health conditions than in the original study. An approach based on a reduced-form interpretation of causality thus is not very informative, at least as long as the confounding influence of hidden common factors is not fully controlled.

Suggested Citation

  • Till Stowasser & Florian Heiss & Daniel McFadden & Joachim Winter, 2011. ""Healthy, Wealthy and Wise?" Revisited: An Analysis of the Causal Pathways from Socio-economic Status to Health," NBER Working Papers 17273, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17273
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. David A. Wise, 2005. "Analyses in the Economics of Aging," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number wise05-1, October.
    4. James P. Smith, 1999. "Healthy Bodies and Thick Wallets: The Dual Relation between Health and Economic Status," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(2), pages 145-166, Spring.
    5. Adda, Jerome & Chandola, Tarani & Marmot, Michael, 2003. "Socio-economic status and health: causality and pathways," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 112(1), pages 57-63, January.
    6. Sims, Christopher A, 1972. "Money, Income, and Causality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(4), pages 540-552, September.
    7. Manuel Arellano & Stephen Bond, 1991. "Some Tests of Specification for Panel Data: Monte Carlo Evidence and an Application to Employment Equations," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(2), pages 277-297.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C33 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Multiple or Simultaneous Equation Models; Multiple Variables - - - Models with Panel Data; Spatio-temporal Models
    • C52 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric Modeling - - - Model Evaluation, Validation, and Selection
    • I0 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - General
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I30 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General
    • J0 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General
    • J20 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - General

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