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Inequality and Mortality: Long-Run Evidence from a Panel of Countries

39 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2006  

Andrew Leigh

Australian National University - Economics Program, Research School of Social Sciences

Christopher Jencks

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: July 2006

Abstract

We investigate whether changes in economic inequality affect mortality in rich countries. To answer this question we use a new source of data on income inequality: tax data on the share of pretax income going to the richest 10 percent of the population in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, and the US between 1903 and 2003. Although this measure is not a good proxy for inequality within the bottom half of the income distribution, it is a good proxy for changes in the top half of the distribution and for the Gini coefficient. In the absence of country and year fixed effects, the income share of the top decile is negatively related to life expectancy and positively related to infant mortality. However, in our preferred fixed-effects specification these relationships are weak, statistically insignificant, and likely to change their sign. Nor do our data suggest that changes in the income share of the richest 10 percent affect homicide or suicide rates.

Keywords: health, inequality, mortality, top incomes, homicide, suicide, Welfare / Health Care/ Social Policy

JEL Classification: I12, N30

Suggested Citation

Leigh, Andrew and Jencks, Christopher, Inequality and Mortality: Long-Run Evidence from a Panel of Countries (July 2006). KSG Working Paper No. RWP06-032. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=902381 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.902381

Andrew Leigh

Australian National University - Economics Program, Research School of Social Sciences ( email )

HC Coombs Building
Australian National University
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200
Australia
+61261251374 (Phone)
+61261250182 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://econrsss.anu.edu.au/~aleigh/

Christopher Jencks (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-495-0546 (Phone)
617-496-9053 (Fax)

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