The Impact of Economic Conditions on Mortality over the Lifetime

David Cutler, Harvard University
Wei Huang, Harvard University
Adriana Lleras-Muney, University of California, Los Angeles

We estimate the impact of economic fluctuations at various ages on longevity. We match cohort mortality tables from Human Mortality Database to economic conditions (i.e. GDP per capita and its fluctuations) since birth. Our data covers over 100 birth cohorts born in 1830 and later, in 37 countries with high quality mortality data. Controlling for country-year and birth cohort fixed effects, we find large and significant negative (positive) effects of economic recessions (booms) earlier life on mortality rates at later ages. Further analysis suggests that the economic conditions at different ages have consistent associations with life expectancy but with various magnitudes; economic fluctuations at ages 16-35 have the highest impact on life expectancy. The estimates suggest that eliminating recessions would increase life expectancy by 8.7 years. Finally, the effect of fluctuations appears to be larger for countries with lower government spending or health expenditure.

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Presented in Session 109: Health Implications of the Great Recession