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Childhood Health Conditions and Lifetime Labor Market Outcomes

Manuel Flores and Barbara L. Wolfe

American Journal of Health Economics, 2022, vol. 8, issue 4, 506 - 533

Abstract: We explore the influence that different dimensions of early life health, such as the experience of epilepsy or a significant mental, physical, or general health problem, have on numerous lifetime labor market outcomes and patterns of life cycle employment. The data we use include over 81,000 males and females from the 29 countries in the Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe. Our results show that for men, all four dimensions of early life health impose a penalty for nearly all the lifetime labor market outcomes we consider, but those with childhood mental health problems tend to do worst. These penalties are often only somewhat larger than those of men with epilepsy but more than twice and five times larger than those with, respectively, poor general or adverse physical health during childhood. Women appear less affected by adverse early life health, although we find evidence of similar employment penalties for those with epilepsy and poor general health during childhood. Our life cycle analysis is consistent but provides more insight into the timing of reduced employment and full-time employment, thereby extending earlier studies in this literature. Overall, our results highlight the potential lifetime work gains for public health policies that help to prevent or comprehensively treat poor general health, mental health problems, or epilepsy during childhood.

Date: 2022
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