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Grossman's Health Threshold and Retirement

  • Titus Galama


  • Arie Kapteyn


  • Raquel Fonseca


  • Pierre-Carl Michaud


The authors formulate a stylized structural model of health, wealth accumulation and retirement decisions building on the human capital framework of health provided by Grossman. They explicitly assume a functional form of the utility function and carefully account for initial conditions, which allow them to derive analytic solutions for the time paths of consumption, health, health investment, savings and retirement. They argue that the Grossman literature has been unnecessarily restrictive in assuming that health is always at Grossman's "optimal" health level. Exploring the properties of corner solutions they find that advances in population health (health capital) can explain the paradox that while population health and mortality have continued to improve in the developed world, retirement ages have continued to fall with retirees pointing to deteriorating health as an important reason for early retirement. They find that improvements in population health decrease the retirement age, while at the same time individuals retire when their health has deteriorated. In their model, workers with higher human capital (say white collar workers) invest more in health and because they stay healthier retire later than those with lower human capital (say blue collar workers) whose health deteriorates faster. Plausibly, most individuals are endowed with an initial stock of health that is substantially greater than the level required to be economically productive.

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Paper provided by RAND Corporation in its series Working Papers with number 658.

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Length: 42 pages
Date of creation: Dec 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ran:wpaper:658
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  1. Blau, David M., 2007. "Retirement and Consumption in a Life Cycle Model," IZA Discussion Papers 2986, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Banks, James & Blundell, Richard & Tanner, Sarah, 1998. "Is There a Retirement-Savings Puzzle?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(4), pages 769-88, September.
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  7. James H. Stock & David A. Wise, 1990. "The Pension Inducement to Retire: An Option Value Analysis," NBER Chapters, in: Issues in the Economics of Aging, pages 205-230 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. 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.
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  10. Anne Case & Angus Deaton, 2004. "Broken down by work and sex: how our health declines," Working Papers 257, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
  11. B. Douglas Bernheim & Jonathan Skinner & Steven Weinberg, 1997. "What Accounts for the Variation in Retirement Wealth Among U.S. Households?," NBER Working Papers 6227, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Michael Hurd & Susann Rohwedder, 2003. "The Retirement-Consumption Puzzle: Anticipated and Actual Declines in Spending at Retirement," NBER Working Papers 9586, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Wagstaff, Adam, 1986. "The demand for health : Some new empirical evidence," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 5(3), pages 195-233, September.
  14. Dana P. Goldman & James P. Smith, 2004. "Can Patient Self-Management Help Explain the SES Health Gradient?," HEW 0403004, EconWPA.
  15. 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.
  16. Norma B. Coe & Gema Zamarro, 2008. "Retirement Effects on Health in Europe," Working Papers 588, RAND Corporation.
  17. Ried, Walter, 1998. "Comparative dynamic analysis of the full Grossman model," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(4), pages 383-425, August.
  18. Ehrlich, Isaac & Chuma, Hiroyuki, 1990. "A Model of the Demand for Longevity and the Value of Life Extension," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(4), pages 761-82, August.
  19. Michael Grossman, 1972. "The Demand for Health: A Theoretical and Empirical Investigation," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number gros72-1, September.
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