IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Health, Income and Economic Development

  • Anne Case

    (Princeton University)

There is a strong positive relationship between income and health throughout the world. If part of this association represents a causal effect from income to health, then the maintenance and support of incomes becomes a potential policy instrument for promoting population or group health. Policies for income support, such as transfers to the poor, or pensions for the elderly, are instruments that should be assessed, along with the provision of health services, for their ability to improve health. Whether there is a causal link from income to health, and its size, are important research issues for those interested in health in developing countries. This paper uses data from an integrated survey of health and economic well being in South Africa to examine the impact of the South African old age pension on the health of pensioners, and of the prime aged adults and children who live with pensioners. We find evidence of a large and causal effect of income on health status—one that works at least in part through sanitation and living standards, in part through nutritional status, and in part through the reduction of psychosocial stress. The pension is used to upgrade household facilities, and some of the improvements made have health consequences. We find that the household’s water source being on-site and the presence of a flush toilet are both significantly more likely, the greater the number of years of pension receipt in the household. In addition, the presence of a pensioner in the household on average reduces the probability of an adult skipping a meal by 20 percent, and the presence of two pensioners reduces the probability by 40 percent. All adults in the survey were asked a battery of questions of depression, which is inextricably linked to stress and health status. We find that, for households pooling income, the presence of pensioners has a significant effect on reported depression, and that the effect is larger, the greater the number of pensioners. We conclude that governments interested in improving health status may find the provision of cash benefits to be one of the most effective policy tools available to them. Cash provides a yardstick against which other health interventions should be measured.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

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 271.

in new window

Date of creation: May 2001
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:pri:cheawb:case_economic_development_abcde
Contact details of provider: Postal:
(609) 258-4800

Phone: (609) 258-4800
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

No references listed on IDEAS
You can help add them by filling out this form.

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:pri:cheawb:case_economic_development_abcde. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (David Long)

The email address of this maintainer does not seem to be valid anymore. Please ask David Long to update the entry or send us the correct email address

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.