The Self-Employed are Less Likely to Have Health Insurance Than Wage Earners. So What?

Craig William Perry, Harvey S. Rosen

NBER Working Paper No. 8316
Issued in June 2001
NBER Program(s):Health Care, Public Economics

There is considerable public policy concern over the relatively low rates of health insurance coverage among the self-employed in the United States. Presumably, the reason for the concern is that their low rates of insurance lead to worse health outcomes. We use data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey conducted in 1996 to analyze how the self-employed and wage-earners differ with respect to insurance coverage and health status. Using a variety of ways to measure health status, we find that the relative lack of health insurance among the self-employed does not affect their health. For virtually every subjective and objective measure of health status, the self-employed and wage earners are statistically indistinguishable from each other. Further, we present some evidence that this phenomenon is not due to the fact that individuals who select into self-employment are healthier than wage-earners, ceteris paribus. Thus, the public policy concern with the relative lack of health insurance among the self-employed may be somewhat misplaced.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w8316

Published: Holtz-Eakin, Douglas and Harvey S. Rosen (eds.) Entrepreneurship and Public Policy. MIT Press, 2004.

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