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The gender gap in mortality: How much is explained by behavior?

Johannes Schünemann (), Holger Strulik () and Timo Trimborn ()

Journal of Health Economics, 2017, vol. 54, issue C, 79-90

Abstract: In developed countries, women are expected to live about 4–5 years longer than men. In this paper, we develop a novel approach to gauge the extent to which gender differences in longevity can be attributed to gender-specific preferences and health behavior. We set up a physiologically founded model of health deficit accumulation and calibrate it using recent insights from gerontology. From fitting life cycle health expenditure and life expectancy, we obtain estimates of the gender-specific preference parameters. We then perform the counterfactual experiment of endowing women with the preferences of men. In our benchmark scenario, this reduces the gender gap in life expectancy from 4.6 to 1.4 years. When we add gender-specific preferences for unhealthy consumption, the model can motivate up to 89 percent of the gender gap. Our theory offers also an economic explanation for why the gender gap declines with rising income.

Keywords: Health; Aging; Longevity; Gender-specific preferences; Unhealthy behavior (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D91 J17 J26 I12 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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