life expectancy at age 40 for males in the 90th income percentile is 45.3 years whereas the corresponding indicator in the 10th income percentile is only 35.8. For comparison, according to the report from National Center for Health Statistics, if all cancer deaths were eliminated, life expectancy at birth would increase only by 3.2 years.
…inequality would seem to matter since it can create differences in access to medical services. Interestingly, however, when I compare average medical spending by income groups, low income individuals tend to spend more on healthcare than high income individuals in most ages. The second viewpoint is motivated by the income-health gradient. It is widely accepted that higher income individuals tend to be in much better health than lower income individuals even when they are young. Moreover, the gap widens as they age. Many papers in health economics point out that widening health disparities by income can potentially arise from differences in unhealthy behaviors.
Pointer from Tyler Cowen. In the paper, Katera argues that the lower life expectancy of lower-income individuals reflects differences in their behavior rather than differences in access to medical services. My thoughts:
1. This seems consistent with Hansonian medicine, in which on average the benefits of more health care spending are about zero. But it also could suggest a counter to the Hanson view. That is, it could be that at the margin everyone benefits from more health care spending, but because the people who spend more tend to be people who behave in unhealthy ways, the benefits of more spending are difficult to tease out from the data. It is like trying to measure the relationship between policing and crime. If areas with a lot of crime tend to require more police, then a simple correlation analysis might suggest that adding police does not help to reduce crime.
2. Katera’s findings are not politically correct. I am on the record as saying that academic economics is headed toward a state in which findings like this will make one almost unemployable. Imagine trying to get Katera hired in a sociology department. Katera’s experience as a job candidate will be help to indicate how far along we are on this path.