Inheritances, Health and Death
We examine how wealth shocks, in the form of inheritances, affect the mortality rates, health status and health behaviors of older adults, using data from eight waves of the Health and Retirement Survey (HRS). Our main finding is that bequests do not have substantial effects on health, although some improvements in quality-of-life are possible. This absence occurs despite increases in out-of-pocket (OOP) spending on health care and in the utilization of medical services, especially discretionary and non-lifesaving types such as dental care. Nor can we find a convincing indication of changes in lifestyles that offset the benefits of increased medical care. Inheritances are associated with higher alcohol consumption, but with no change in smoking or exercise and a possible decrease in obesity.
We thank Mark Votruba, Michael Hurd and seminar participants at the University of Bristol, University of Oslo, RAND and the Southern Economic Association meetings for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.