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Broken down by work and sex: how our health declines

  • Anne Case

    (Princeton University)

  • Angus Deaton

    (Princeton University)

Self-reported health status (SRHS) is an imperfect measure of non-fatal health, but allows examination of how health status varies over the life course. Although women have lower mortality than men, they report worse health status up to age 65. The SRHS of both men and women deteriorates with age. There are strong gradients, so that at age 20, men in the bottom quartile already report worse health than do men in the top quartile at age 50. In the bottom quartile of income, SRHS declines more rapidly with age, but only until retirement age. These facts motivate a study of the role of work, particularly manual work, in health decline with age. The Grossman capital-stock model of health assumes a technology in which money and time can effect complete health repair. As a result, declines in health status are driven, not by the rate of deterioration of the health stock, but by the rate of increase of the rate of deterioration. We argue that such a technology is implausible, and we show that people in manual occupations have worse SRHS and more rapidly declining SRHS, even with a comprehensive set of controls for income and education. We also find that much of the differences in SRHS across the income distribution is driven by health-related absence from the labor-force, which is a mechanism running from health to income, not the reverse.

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Paper provided by Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing. in its series Working Papers with number 257.

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Date of creation: Jun 2004
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Handle: RePEc:pri:cheawb:case_deaton_health_declines
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  1. Muurinen, Jaana-Marja, 1982. "Demand for health: A generalised Grossman model," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 5-28, May.
  2. Victor R. Fuchs, 1982. "Time Preference and Health: An Exploratory Study," NBER Chapters, in: Economic Aspects of Health, pages 93-120 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Wagstaff, Adam, 1986. "The demand for health : Some new empirical evidence," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 5(3), pages 195-233, September.
  4. Michael Baker & Mark Stabile & Catherine Deri, 2001. "What do Self-Reported, Objective, Measures of Health Measure?," NBER Working Papers 8419, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Waldron, Ingrid, 1983. "Sex differences in illness incidence, prognosis and mortality: Issues and evidence," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 17(16), pages 1107-1123, January.
  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. Grossman, Michael, 1972. "On the Concept of Health Capital and the Demand for Health," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 80(2), pages 223-55, March-Apr.
  8. Muurinen, Jaana-Marja & Le Grand, Julian, 1985. "The economic analysis of inequalities in health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 20(10), pages 1029-1035, January.
  9. Grossman, Michael, 2000. "The human capital model," Handbook of Health Economics, in: A. J. Culyer & J. P. Newhouse (ed.), Handbook of Health Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 7, pages 347-408 Elsevier.
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