Dissertation (Doctoral) Essays on the Economics of Longevity


Mayvis Anthony Rebeira


The dissertation focuses on the topic of longevity and aging; specifically, how changes in pension income and income inequality affect mortality and the risk factors associated with chronic health conditions. Through three separate essays, I examine the impact of the aforementioned factors on three, disparate population cohorts in Canada, the United States and in developed countries.

In the first essay, I investigate risk factors for chronic physical and mental health conditions in an understudied group: Canadian veterans. My research helps identify high-risk veterans as they transition from military to civilian life. The findings show the importance of service-oriented factors, notably military branch (land forces) and overseas deployment as significant risk factors for a subset of chronic health conditions. In addition, veterans experienced improved health as their income levels increased.

In the second essay, I investigate how differences in pension income affect mortality by analyzing pensions received by US Confederate veterans. I exploit exogenous variation in pension income across two adjacent states (Texas and Oklahoma), as a result of regional differences in pension laws, to determine the effect of pension income on health. I compiled a novel database through primary data collection that details dates of birth and death of veterans. I show that receiving higher pension increased longevity in Texan veterans by 1.23 years relative to their counterparts in Oklahoma. The results remain significant after controlling for county-level differences in the two states.

In the third essay, I focus on the effect of macroeconomic conditions – specifically income inequality on mortality risk for men and women in a subset of OECD countries from 1950-2008. Using the latest available data on the inverted Pareto-Lorenz coefficient and a panel co-integration framework, I address econometric challenges (e.g. causality, omitted variable bias) posed by more conventional methods. I show that for industrialized countries with co-integrated series, income inequality has a long-run significant negative effect on mortality risk for both men and women, that is, an increase in income inequality lowers annualized adult mortality risk.

These essays fill a major gap in the health economics literature on factors that affect health and longevity in understudied populations.


Peter C. Coyte