Health and Wealth of Elderly Couples
Causality Tests Using Dynamic Panel Data Models
Published in: Journal of Health Economics, v. 27, no. 5, Sep. 2008, p. 1312-1325
Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2007
A positive relationship between socio-economic status (SES) and health, the health-wealth gradient, is repeatedly found in many industrialized countries. This study analyzes competing explanations for this gradient: causal effects from health to wealth (health causation) and causal effects from wealth to health (wealth or social causation). Using six biennial waves of couples aged 51-61 in 1992 from the US Health and Retirement Study, we test for causality in panel data models incorporating unobserved heterogeneity and a lag structure supported by specification tests. In contrast to tests relying on models with only first order lags or without unobserved heterogeneity, these tests provide no evidence of causal wealth health effects. On the other hand, we find strong evidence of causal effects from both spouses' health on household wealth. The authors also find an effect of the husband's health on the wife's mental health, but no other effects from one spouse's health to health of the other spouse.