Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Wealth not causative of life outcomes

From Wealth, Health, and Child Development: Evidence from Administrative Data on Swedish Lottery Players by David Cesarini, Erik Lindqvist, Robert Östling and Björn Wallace. Just a single research paper but at least some rigor to their findings. From the abstract:
We use administrative data on Swedish lottery players to estimate the causal impact of wealth on players' own health and their children's health and developmental outcomes. Our estimation sample is large, virtually free of attrition, and allows us to control for the factors ‒ such as the number of lottery tickets ‒ conditional on which the prizes were randomly assigned. In adults, we find no evidence that wealth impacts mortality or health care utilization, with the possible exception of a small reduction in the consumption of mental health drugs.

Our estimates allow us to rule out effects on 10-year mortality one sixth as large the cross-sectional gradient. In our intergenerational analyses, we find that wealth increases children's health care utilization in the years following the lottery and may also reduce obesity risk. The effects on most other child outcomes, which include drug consumption, scholastic performance, and skills, can usually be bounded to a tight interval around zero. Overall, our findings suggest that correlations observed in affluent, developed countries between (i) wealth and health or (ii) parental income and children's outcomes do not reflect a causal effect of wealth.
Too controversial a finding to be accepted at face value but a good foundation for further research.

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