Spousal Health Effects: The Role of Selection

James Banks, Elaine Kelly, James P. Smith

Chapter in NBER book Discoveries in the Economics of Aging (2014), David A. Wise, editor (p. 255 - 279)
Conference held May 9-11, 2013
Published in June 2014 by University of Chicago Press
© 2014 by the National Bureau of Economic Research
in NBER Book Series - The Economics of Aging

In this chapter, we investigate the issue of partner selection in the health of individuals who are at least fifty years old in England and the United States. We find a strong and positive association in family background variables including education of partners and their parents. Adult health behaviors such as smoking, drinking, and exercise are more positively associated in England compared to the United States. Childhood health indicators are also positively associated across partners. We also investigated pre and post partnership smoking behavior of couples. There exists strong positive assortative mating in smoking in that smokers are much more likely to partner with smokers and non-smokers with non-smokers. This relationship is far stronger in England compared to the United States. In the United States, we find evidence of asymmetric partner influence in smoking in that men's pre marriage smoking behavior influences his female partner's post marriage smoking behavior but there does not appear to be a parallel influence of women's pre-marriage smoking on their male partner's post-marital smoking. These relationships are much more parallel across genders in England.

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This chapter first appeared as NBER working paper w19438, Spousal Health Effects - the Role of Selection, James Banks, Elaine Kelly, James P. Smith
Commentary on this chapter: Comment, Amitabh Chandra
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