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Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award

January 2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Department

Economics

First Advisor

Gail Jensen Summers

Second Advisor

Wassim Tarraf

Abstract

This dissertation examines the determinants of healthy aging among older adults using Grossman’s framework of a health production function. Healthy aging is produced using a variety of inputs, including some determined in early life, such as health and socioeconomic status as a child, others determined in young adulthood, such as education, others determined in mid-life, such as household wealth, and still others determined in later-life, such as current health habits. A production function for healthy aging is estimated using nationally representative data from the 2010 Health and Retirement Study on non-institutionalized seniors, and positing a simultaneous equations mediation model, recognizing that childhood outcomes influence adulthood outcomes, which in turn influence healthy aging. I quantify how childhood factors contribute to healthy aging, both directly and indirectly through these effects on mediating adult outcomes. The importance of current health habits to healthy aging are also examined. The results indicate that favorable childhood conditions significantly improve healthy aging scores, both directly and indirectly, mediated through education, income, and wealth. Moreover, good health habits have positive effects on healthy aging that are larger in magnitude than the effects of childhood factors. The findings suggest that exercising, maintaining a proper weight, and not smoking can more than compensate for unfavorable conditions experienced as a child.

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