December 2009

IZA DP No. 4617: New Evidence on the Role of Remittances on Health Care Expenditures by Mexican Households

published in: Review of Economics of the Household, 2011, 9 (1), 69-98.

Using Mexico's 2002 wave of the Encuesta Nacional de Ingresos y Gastos de los Hogares (ENIGH), we find that international remittances raise health care expenditures. Approximately 6 pesos of every 100 peso increment in remittance income are spent on health. The sensitivity of health care expenditures to variations in the level of international remittances is almost three times greater than its responsiveness to changes in other sources of household income. Furthermore, health care expenditures are less responsive to remittance income among lower-income households. Since the lower responsiveness may be partially due to participation of lower-income households in public programs like PROGRESA (now called Oportunidades), we also analyze the impact of remittances by health care coverage. As expected, we find that households with some kind of health care coverage – either through their jobs or via participation in PROGRESA – spend less of remittance income increments on health care than households lacking any health care coverage. Hence, remittances may help equalize health care expenditures across households with and without health care coverage.