The health capital of families: an investigation of the inter-spousal correlation in health status.

TitleThe health capital of families: an investigation of the inter-spousal correlation in health status.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2002
AuthorsWilson, SE
JournalSoc Sci Med
Date Published2002 Oct
ISSN Number0277-9536
Call Numberpubs_2002_Wilson_SSocSciMed.pdf
KeywordsActivities of Daily Living, Chronic disease, Decision making, Female, Health Behavior, Health Status Indicators, Humans, Interviews as Topic, Life Style, Male, Marital Status, Middle Aged, Regression Analysis, Risk Factors, Risk-Taking, Self Efficacy, Sociology, Medical, Spouses, United States

This study documents and analyzes the inter-spousal correlation in health status (ISCIHS) among married couples in later life. A simple economic theory is developed that integrates standard theories of marriage markets and health capital formation. This theory implies that several causal factors will lead to a positive correlation in the health status of spouses. These include assortative matching in the marriage market along dimensions related to health (such as education); a tendency to share common life-style behaviors such as diet, smoking and exercise; shared environmental risk factors for disease; and a potential for direct effects of the health of one spouse on the health of the other. Empirical estimates using the 1992 Health and Retirement study in the USA demonstrate that ISCIHS is large in magnitude, highly statistically significant, and robust to alternative measures of health status. ISCIHS exists even after controlling for age, education, income, and other socioeconomic and demographic determinants of health status, including behavioral risk factors. These covariates reduce the overall correlation coefficient by 33% to 57%, depending on the health measure, which suggests both that marriage formation and decision making processes systematically affect health in later life and that heretofore unidentified risk factors for disease and disability exist at the household level.

User Guide Notes

Endnote Keywords

Health production/Economics of the family/Marriage markets/Shared risks

Endnote ID


Alternate JournalSoc Sci Med
Citation Key6829
PubMed ID12365528
Grant ListAG10120 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States