The Importance of Objective Health Measures in Predicting Early Receipt of Social Security Benefits: The Case of Fatness

39 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2008

See all articles by Richard V. Burkhauser

Richard V. Burkhauser

Cornell University - Department of Policy Analysis & Management (PAM); University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute

John Cawley

Cornell University - College of Human Ecology, Department of Policy Analysis & Management (PAM); Cornell University - College of Arts & Sciences, Department of Economics; Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Erasmus School of Economics (ESE); National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG) - J.E. Cairnes School of Business & Economics; NBER; IZA

Date Written: December 2006

Abstract

Theoretical models argue that poor health will contribute to early exit from the labor market and the decision to take early Social Security retirement benefits (Old-Age or OA benefits). However, most empirical estimates of the causal importance of health on the decision to take early OA benefits have been forced to rely on global measures such as self-rated work limitations or self-rated health. We contribute to the empirical literature by using a more objective measure of health, fatness, to predict early receipt of OA benefits. We do so by estimating the causal impact of fatness within an empirical model using the method of instrumental variables, and testing the robustness of our findings using the most common measure of fatness in the social science literature - body mass index - with what is a more theoretically appropriate measure of fatness - total body fat and percent body fat. Overall, our conclusion is that fatness and obesity are strong predictors of early receipt of OA benefits.

Suggested Citation

Burkhauser, Richard V. and Cawley, John, The Importance of Objective Health Measures in Predicting Early Receipt of Social Security Benefits: The Case of Fatness (December 2006). Michigan Retirement Research Center Research Paper No. WP 2006-148, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1095344 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1095344

Richard V. Burkhauser (Contact Author)

Cornell University - Department of Policy Analysis & Management (PAM) ( email )

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University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute ( email )

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John Cawley

Cornell University - College of Human Ecology, Department of Policy Analysis & Management (PAM) ( email )

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Cornell University - College of Arts & Sciences, Department of Economics ( email )

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