Disability and work: The role of health shocks and childhood circumstances

This paper focuses on the relation between the onset of disability and employment outcomes.We develop an event history model that includes unscheduled hospitalizations as a measure for unanticipated health shocks and estimate the model on data from the British National Child DevelopmentStudy (NCDS). We show that such health shocks increase the likelihood of an onset of a disability by around 138%. However, health shocks are relatively rare events and therefore the larger part of observeddisability rates result from gradual deteriorations in health. We find no direct effect of health shocks on employment outcomes. Using the health shock as an instrumental variable shows that the onset of adisability at age 25 causally reduces the employment rate at age 40 with around 21 percentage points. Our results show that early childhood conditions are important in explaining adult health and socioeconomic outcomes. Those who have experienced bad conditions during early childhood have higher rates of health deterioration during adulthood, are more likely to become non-employed and suffer from longer spells of non-employment during the course of life.

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.


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