Intergenerational Correlations of Health Among Older Adults

Empirical Evidence from Indonesia

by Younoh Kim, Bondan Sikoki, John Strauss, Firman Witoelar

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It is widely believed that family background has a significant influence on children's lives. The vast majority of the existent literature has focused on the relationship between parents' education and income and the education and income of their children. Surprisingly, however, much less work has been done on the intergenerational transmission, or correlations of health. The main objective of this paper is to examine the correlations of health across generations using the Indonesia Family Life Survey (IFLS). The authors take advantage of the richness of IFLS and examine several health measures of respondents, including self-reports and biomarkers. As measures of health of both parents, IFLS has information on whether they are dead at the time of the last wave in 2007, their general health status and whether they have difficulties with any ADLs at the time of the survey or just before death. The findings suggest strong intergenerational correlations between the measures of parental health, schooling, and the health of their adult children. They also examine how these intergenerational correlations might change for respondents born in the more developed parts of Indonesia compared to the less developed areas. Interestingly, these health associations are much lower for respondents who were born in Java or Bali. These are areas of Indonesia that have experienced the most rapid economic growth over the past 40 years. This suggests that being born and growing up in developed areas, which may have better health infrastructure, substitutes for the influence of parental health.

This paper series made possible by the NIA funded RAND Center for the Study of Aging and the NICHD funded RAND Population Research Center

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