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Trends in Inequality of Opportunity in health over the life cycle

Working Paper 2022-598


This paper explores the evolution of inequality of opportunity in the prevalence ofchronic diseases along the life cycle and across different birth cohorts for individualsaged 50 or older and residing in 13 European countries. We adopt an ex-ante parametric approach and rely on the dissimilarity index as our reference inequality metric. Inaddition to a commonly used set of circumstances, we pay particular attention to therole of adverse early-life conditions, such as the experience of harm and the quality ofthe relationship with parents. In order to quantify the relative importance of each circumstance, we apply the Shapley inequality decomposition method. Our results suggestthat inequality of opportunity in health is not stable over the life cycle – it is generallylower at younger ages and then monotonically increases. Moreover, it varies betweendifferent birth cohorts and is generally higher for younger individuals than for olderage groups. Finally, the contribution of adverse early life conditions ranges between25% and 45%, which is comparable to the share of socio-economic circumstances butsignificantly higher than the relative contribution of other demographic characteristics,especially at younger ages.

Authors: Cristina Elisa Orso, Matija Kovacic.

Keywords: Inequality of opportunity, health, life cycle, adverse early-life conditions, decomposition
JEL: I14, D63.