Health at Older Ages: The Causes and Consequences of Declining Disability among the Elderly

By David M. Cutler; David A. Wise | Go to book overview

4
Pathways to Disability
Predicting Health Trajectories

Florian Heiss, Axel Börsch-Supan, Michael Hurd, and David A. Wise


4.1. Introduction

The aging of populations and the prospect of a rising number of disabled persons has generated an increasing interest in understanding the causes and precursors of disability. A perhaps countervailing motivation to understand disability has been the finding by some analysts of declining agespecific disability rates over the past two or three decades, in the United States in particular. Declining age-specific disability rates could moderate the projected increase in the incidence of disability due to aging populations.

In contrast to the finding of declining health disability, there has been an increase in participation in the Disability Insurance (DI) program in the United States (see Duggan and Imberman, chapter 11 in this volume). The participation rate in disability insurance programs has also increased in some European countries. Moreover, DI participation rates vary dramati-

Florian Heiss is an assistant professor of economics at the University of Munich. Axel
Börsch-Supan is a professor of economics at the University of Mannheim, director of the
Mannheim Research Institute for the Economics of Aging, and a research associate of the
National Bureau of Economic Research. Michael Hurd is senior economist and director,
RAND Center for the Study of Aging, and a research associate of the National Bureau of
Economic Research. David A. Wise is the John F. Stambaugh Professor of Political Economy
at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and research associate
and director of the program on the economics of aging at the National Bureau of Economic
Research.

Acknowledgments: We thank participants in the NBER workshops in Charleston, SC,
Cambridge, MA, and Jackson Hole, WY. Financial support from the National Institute on
Aging through grants P30 AG12810, R01 AG19805, R01 AG16772-05, and P01 AG005842,
the Mary Woodard Lasker Charitable Trust and Michael E. DeBakey Foundation, and the
sponsors of MEA, including the State of Baden-Wuerttemberg and the German Association
of Insurers, is gratefully acknowledged.

-105-

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