NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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The Roots of Health Inequality and The Value of Intra-Family Expertise

Yiqun Chen, Petra Persson, Maria Polyakova

NBER Working Paper No. 25618
Issued in February 2019, Revised in June 2020
NBER Program(s):Economics of Aging, Children, Health Economics, Public Economics

Do differences in health literacy contribute to the widely documented health-income gradient? In the context of Sweden, we document a strong relationship between exposure to health-related expertise – captured by the presence of a health professional in the family – and health. Exposure to expertise raises preventive health investments throughout the lifecycle, improves physical health, and prolongs life. Two quasi-experimental research designs – admissions lotteries into medical school and variation in the timing of medical degrees – support a causal interpretation of these effects. We estimate that unequal exposure to health-related expertise may account for up to 18 percent of the population-wide health-income gradient.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w25618

 
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