, Volume 48, Issue 4, pp 1377–1400 | Cite as

Differential Survival in Europe and the United States: Estimates Based on Subjective Probabilities of Survival

  • Adeline Delavande
  • Susann RohwedderEmail author


Cross-country comparisons of differential survival by socioeconomic status (SES) are useful in many domains. Yet, to date, such studies have been rare. Reliably estimating differential survival in a single country has been challenging because it requires rich panel data with a large sample size. Cross-country estimates have proven even more difficult because the measures of SES need to be comparable internationally. We present an alternative method for acquiring information on differential survival by SES. Rather than using observations of actual survival, we relate individuals’ subjective probabilities of survival to SES variables in cross section. To show that subjective survival probabilities are informative proxies for actual survival when estimating differential survival, we compare estimates of differential survival based on actual survival with estimates based on subjective probabilities of survival for the same sample. The results are remarkably similar. We then use this approach to compare differential survival by SES for 10 European countries and the United States. Wealthier people have higher survival probabilities than those who are less wealthy, but the strength of the association differs across countries. Nations with a smaller gradient appear to be Belgium, France, and Italy, while the United States, England, and Sweden appear to have a larger gradient.


Differential survival Differential mortality Subjective probabilities Cross-country comparison 



We are grateful for financial support from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) through a pilot grant of the RAND Center for the Study of Aging (P30 AG012815) and from the NIA via Grant P01AG08291. Delavande is grateful for additional funding from a Nova Forum research grant. We are thankful to Iliyan Georgiev, Michael Hurd, Chuck Manski, Younghwan Song, two anonymous referees, and seminar participants at the Workshop on Comparative International Research Based on HRS, ELSA and SHARE; the University of Lausanne; and Tilburg University for helpful comments and discussions. This article uses data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), and the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). The collection of these data sets is supported by NIA, the U.S Social Security Administration, the European Commission through the 5th and 6th framework program, and several European governments.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.RAND Corporation and Nova School of Business and Economics and University of EssexEssexUK
  2. 2.RAND Corporation and NETSPARSanta MonicaUSA

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