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Income–well-being gradient in sickness and health

Kanninen, Ohto and Böckerman, Petri and Suoniemi, Ilpo (2022): Income–well-being gradient in sickness and health.

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Abstract

We propose a method of studying the value of insurance. For this purpose, we analyze well-being of the same individuals, comparing sick and healthy years in German panel survey data on life satisfaction. To impose structure on the income–wellbeing gradient, we fit a flexible utility function to the data, focusing on the differences in marginal utility in the sick and the healthy state, by allowing for a “fixed cost of sickness”. We find that marginal utility of income is higher in the sick state. We use our estimates to gauge the value of sickness insurance for Baily-Chetty type optimal policy calculations. We also show that the income–wellbeing gradient has steepened over time in Germany and we use the fitted model to characterize this change.

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