The Persistence and Heterogeneity of Health Among Older Americans

48 Pages Posted: 24 Jul 2014 Last revised: 10 Aug 2014

See all articles by Florian Heiss

Florian Heiss

Heinrich Heine University Dusseldorf - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Steven F. Venti

Dartmouth College - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

David A. Wise

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: July 2014

Abstract

We consider how age-health profiles differ by demographic characteristics such as education, race, and ethnicity. A key feature of the analysis is the joint estimation of health and mortality to correct for the effect of mortality selection on observed age-health profiles. The model also allows for heterogeneity in individual health at a point in time and the persistence of the unobserved component of health over time. The observed component of health is based on a multidimensional index based on 27 indicators of health. Most of the key results are shown by simulations that illustrate the range of issues that can be addressed using the model. Differences in health by education and racial-ethnic group at age 50 persist throughout the remainder of life. Based on observed profiles, the health of whites is about 8 percentile points greater than the health of blacks at age 50 but by age 90 the gap is only 5 percentile points. However, when corrected for mortality selection, the health of blacks is actually declining more rapidly with age than the health of whites; the true gap widens with age. We also find that much of the difference in age-health profiles by racial-ethnic group is accounted for by differences in the levels of education between race-ethnic groups--from two-thirds to 85 percent for men and about half for women. We also simulate differences in survival probabilities by level of education and health and use these probabilities to calculate the expected present discounted value (EPDV) of an immediate annuity with first payout at age 66 for persons by gender, level of education, and health decile. The range of EPDVs is over two-fold for both men and women suggesting enormous potential for adverse selection.

Suggested Citation

Heiss, Florian and Venti, Steven F. and Wise, David A., The Persistence and Heterogeneity of Health Among Older Americans (July 2014). NBER Working Paper No. w20306. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2471199

Florian Heiss (Contact Author)

Heinrich Heine University Dusseldorf - Department of Economics ( email )

Duesseldorf
Germany

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Steven F. Venti

Dartmouth College - Department of Economics ( email )

6106 Rockefeller Center
Hanover, NH 03755
United States
603-646-2526 (Phone)
603-646-2122 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

David A. Wise

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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