Health, Human Capital and Domestic Violence

Nicholas W. Papageorge, Gwyn C. Pauley, Mardge Cohen, Tracey E. Wilson, Barton H. Hamilton, Robert A. Pollak

NBER Working Paper No. 22887
Issued in December 2016, Revised in July 2019
NBER Program(s):Health Care, Health Economics, Labor Studies

We study the impact of a medical breakthrough (HAART) on domestic violence and illicit drug use among low-income women infected with HIV. To identify causal effects, we assume that variation in women's immune system health when HAART was introduced affected how strongly their experience of domestic violence or drug use responded to the breakthrough. Immune system health is objectively measured using white blood cell (CD4) counts. Because the women in our sample were informed of their CD4 count, it is reasonable to assume they react to it. Using this identification strategy, we find that HAART introduction reduced domestic violence and illicit drug use. To explain our estimates, we treat health as a form of human capital and argue that women with more human capital face stronger incentives to make costly investments with future payoffs, such as avoiding abusive partners or reducing illicit drug use.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22887

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