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Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 13 No. 2 (Spring 1999)

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Healthy Bodies and Thick Wallets: The Dual Relation between Health and Economic Status

Article Citation

Smith, James P. 1999. "Healthy Bodies and Thick Wallets: The Dual Relation between Health and Economic Status." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 13(2): 145-166.

DOI: 10.1257/jep.13.2.145

Abstract

This paper sketches theoretical reasons why health may alter household savings and provides evidence on the empirical impact of health shocks on household wealth. The impacts on saving are quantitatively large and only partly explained by increased out-of-pocket medical expenses. Other contributing factors include reduced earnings and a revision in life expectancy. The author also delves into reasons why economic status, access to medical care, and deleterious personal behaviors have been rejected as insufficient explanations. New theories emphasize long-term impacts of early childhood or even intrauterine factors, cumulative effects of prolonged exposures to stress, or reactions of macrosocietal factors like rising levels of income inequality.

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Authors

Smith, James P. (RAND)

JEL Classifications

I12: Health Production
I11: Analysis of Health Care Markets

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