January 2008

IZA DP No. 3329: The Impact of Income Shocks on Health: Evidence from Cohort Data

published in: Journal of the European Economic Association, 2009, 7 (6), 1361 - 1399

We study the effect of permanent income innovations on health for a prime-aged population. Using information on more than half a million individuals sampled over a twenty-five year period in three different cross-sectional surveys we aggregate data by date-of-birth cohort to construct a ‘synthetic cohort’ dataset with details of income, expenditure, socio-demographic factors, health outcomes and selected risk factors. We then exploit structural and arguably exogenous changes in cohort incomes over the eighties and nineties to uncover causal effects of permanent income shocks on health. We find that such income innovations have little effects on a wide range of health measures, but do lead to increases in mortality and risky health behaviour.