, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 313-327

Marital status and mortality: The role of health

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Prior literature has shown that married men live longer than unmarried men. Possible explanations are that marriage protects its incumbents or that healthier men select themselves into marriage. Protective effects, however, introduce the possibility of adverse selection: Those in poor health have an incentive to marry. In this paper we explore the role of health in explaining mortality and marriage patterns, and distinguish protective effects from two types of selection effects. We find adverse selection on the basis of health (unhealthy men tend to (re)marry sooner) and positive selection on the basis of unmeasured factors that both promote good health and encourage marriage.

We thank Robert Marc and seminar participants at the National Bureau of Economic Research, Tilburg University, the Tinbergen Institute, and Stockholm University for their generous comments. We gratefully acknowledge support from the National Institute on Aging, Grants RO1-AG 11994 and RO1-AG12420.