Health, Wealth, and Gender: Do Health Shocks of Husbands and Wives Have Different Impacts on Household Wealth?

Published: 2001
Project ID: UM01-06


The extent to which men’s versus women’s health affects household wealth and the mechanisms through which these effects occur have important implications for the welfare of older individuals living with a spouse, and in particular for women who are likely to outlive their husbands by several years. Intermediate mechanisms through which individual health shocks may affect household wealth are discussed. Four waves of HRS data on married couples are used to estimate the direct effect of onset of various health conditions on household wealth, with these effects allowed to differ for husbands and wives. Estimates using only wave 2 health shocks (controlling for baseline health) indicate that the impact of a health shock to the wife has a larger negative impact than a health shock to the husband, which is consistent with prior work. Estimates in which health shocks from waves 2-4 are allowed for produce conflicting results. Further research is required to ascertain the reason for this apparent conflict.


Jennifer Ward-Batts