The positive gradient between health and wealth is a very well-documented empirical regularity, yet its implications for policy depend on the underlying causal mechanisms, about which there is relatively little evidence. We estimate the causal impact of wealth on health by exploiting the randomized assignment of more than a billion dollars of prize money to around three million Swedish lottery players who have been matched to administrative health records. The sample we use is orders of magnitude larger than those used in earlier work and our use of register data means that non-response bias is unlikely to contaminate our estimates. Our preliminary results suggests that there is no systematic evidence of an impact of wealth on any short- or long-run health variables - including mortality, drug prescriptions or hospitalizations - and the estimates are usually precise enough to rule out all but negligibly small effects. We continue to find null results in subgroups defined by age, sex, socio-economic status, and initial health status. These results suggest that strategies other than income redistribution are required reduce health disparities across socioeconomic strata.

Robert Östling is an economist at the Institute for International Economic Studies at Stockholm University. He obtained his PhD in Economics from Stockholm School of Economics in 2008. His main research interests are behavioral economics, applied microeconomics, game theory and political economics. He is currently involved in a project using data on Swedish lottery players to study the causal impact of positive wealth shocks on life outcomes, behavior and attitudes.

The seminar will take place at CHESS, 5th floor, Sveaplan, on Wednesday 15 May at 1.30 pm.