A Life Course Perspective on Health
In this seminar we study health throughout people’s life courses. Circumstances, choices and interventions during each of the phases of our life courses can affect not only our health, but also other human capital outcomes such as educational and labor market outcomes. Moreover, effects are often not only short-run, but can last throughout our lifetimes. This means that the earlier phases of our lives may be most relevant for us if we want to understand the determinants of health and human capital. And from a policy perspective, early interventions may be highly cost effective, as their effects are so long-lasting. (One may also think of this as “prevention is more efficient than curing”.) But this does not mean that later life phases are not relevant to study in their own respect: each life phase has its own challenges that are worth studying thoroughly. This seminar shows the life course perspective on health by studying five essential phases of the human life:
- Before birth (prenatal): circumstances during this period are particularly known to have long-lasting effects, as all our organs are formed during and go through essential developmental stages during this period. Since this period is so short, prevention can be particularly cost-effective.
- Childhood: the same partially applies to this life stage. This period may be best suited for interventions to support children who grow up in poorer circumstances.
- Going to school: what health effects does schooling have?
- Adulthood: how do our choices during adulthood affect our health, human capital and labor market outcomes?
- Old-age: what happens to our health once we retire?
Each of these phases has been studied extensively by economists. A general challenge in such studies is proving causality. For example: if children who experience adverse circumstances in early life have poorer outcomes in adulthood, is this causal? Or is it due to omitted variables? And does it reflect causality that people who are higher educated have a better health throughout their lives? In this seminar, each student will in-depth analyze a few empirical studies and in this way learn about the econometrician’s approach to proving causality. In practice, this usually involves more than merely an application of some statistical techniques. Though these are involved too, it also involves a clever thinking about the potential threats to causality, and about ways of demonstrating that causality holds.
Thus, the learning goals of this seminar are twofold: on the one hand, students will learn about econometric techniques and how they can be applied in practice. On the other hand, students will learn about the life course perspective on health.
It is assumed that participating students have a solid background in microeconometric methods.
- Introductory meeting: Friday, Nov. 13th, 9:00 - 11:00 a.m.
- Intermediate meetings: To be announced
- Presentations: Thursday, To be announced
- Angrist J., & Pischke J. (2008). Mostly harmless econometrics: An empiricist's companion. Princeton university press.
- Angrist J., & Pischke J. (2015). Mastering ‘Metrics: The Path from Cause to Effect. Princeton university press.
- Stock J.H., and Watson M.M. (2014). Introduction to Econometrics. Pearson. Updated 3rd edition.
Prof. Dr. Reyn van Ewijk (vanewijk"at"uni-mainz.de)