NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Does Widowhood Explain Gender Differences in Out-of-Pocket Medical Spending Among the Elderly?

Gopi Shah Goda, John B. Shoven, Sita Nataraj Slavov

NBER Working Paper No. 17440
Issued in September 2011
NBER Program(s):   AG   HC   PE

Despite the presence of Medicare, out-of-pocket medical spending is a large expenditure risk facing the elderly. While women live longer than men, elderly women incur higher out-of-pocket medical spending than men at each age. In this paper, we examine whether differences in marital status and living arrangements can explain this difference. We find that out-of-pocket medical spending is approximately 29 percent higher when an individual becomes widowed, a large portion of which is spending on nursing homes. Our results suggest a substantial role of living arrangements in out-of-pocket medical spending; however, our estimates combined with differences in rates of widowhood across gender suggest that marital status can explain only one third of the gender difference in total out-of-pocket medical spending, leaving a large portion unexplained. On the other hand, gender differences in widowhood more than explain the observed gender difference in out-of-pocket spending on nursing homes.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w17440

Published: Goda, Gopi Shah & Shoven, John B. & Slavov, Sita Nataraj, 2013. "Does widowhood explain gender differences in out-of-pocket medical spending among the elderly?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 647-658.

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