Early life conditions and later life inequality in health

Maarten Lindeboom, Reyn Van Ewijk

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


Prenatal exposure to adverse conditions is known to affect health throughout the life span. It has also been shown that health is unevenly distributed at advanced ages. This chapter investigates whether health inequalities at old age may be partially caused by prenatal circumstances. We use a sample of people aged 71-91 from eight European countries and assess how shocks in GDP that occurred while the respondents were still in utero affect four important dimensions of later-life health: cognition, depression, functional limitations, and grip strength. We find that early-life macro-economic circumstances do not affect health at advanced ages, nor do they affect inequalities in health. In additional analyses, we show that the least healthy people may not enter our sample as the probability of dying before reaching age 71 is high, and mortality rates among those who were prenatally exposed to adverse GDP shocks are higher. We conclude that selective mortality may mask effects of early-life circumstances on health and health inequality at old age.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHealth and Inequality
PublisherJAI Press
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)9781781905531
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Publication series

NameResearch on Economic Inequality
ISSN (Print)10492585


  • Economics of the elderly
  • Health and inequality
  • Health production


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