Date of Degree

2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Economics

Advisor

David Jaeger

Committee Members

Michael Grossman

Ted Joyce

Subject Categories

Economics

Abstract

Health is defined as an individual's mental or physical condition and being healthy means to be free from illness or injury. Health is relevant to both the supply and demand sides of the national economy. On the demand side, consumers derive satisfaction from being healthy. Consumers purchase goods and services to improve their health but also engage in activities that impair health such as smoking or drinking too much. On the supply side, firms produce health care goods and services to meet the market demand for health care derived from consumers' demand for better health. In addition, health augments labor inputs since the healthier the population, the larger the labor force and the higher the marginal productivity of labor, as in fewer sick days. This dissertation is comprised of three essays related to the effect of social environments and economic incentives on health and health behaviors.

The first essay examines whether immigrants converge towards natives' level of smoking prevalence with assimilation. Results show that assimilation is associated with a greater likelihood of being a smoker for immigrants from lower smoking countries relative to the U.S. and a lower likelihood of being smoker for immigrants from higher smoking countries. Differences in responsiveness to taxes or smoke free air laws cannot explain the convergence in smoking rates between immigrants from higher and lower smoking countries.

The second essay examines the effect of mortgage debt on health. Homeownership in the U.S. is promoted through the use of financing. These policies improve the liquidity of the housing market and make homeownership more affordable. But it also encourages greater consumption of mortgage debt. Using mortgage loan to value (LTV) as a proxy for financial stress, I show that homeowners with high LTVs are more likely to be in poor health.

The third essay examines the effect of unemployment duration on health. I hypothesis that unemployment duration affects health through financial stress. Results show that high mortgage loan to value is not significantly correlated with most measures of poor health but when interacted with high home leverage is positively and significantly correlated with poor health. However, I cannot rule out reverse causality given that those in poor health have a significant likelihood of having high LTV in the next period.

Comments

Digital reproduction from the UMI microform.

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