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Health Inequalities through the Lens of Health-Capital Theory: Issues, Solutions, and Future Directions

Health and Inequality

ISBN: 978-1-78190-553-1, eISBN: 978-1-78190-554-8

Publication date: 30 December 2013


We explore what health-capital theory has to offer in terms of informing and directing research into health inequality. We argue that economic theory can help in identifying mechanisms through which specific socioeconomic indicators and health interact. Our reading of the literature, and our own work, leads us to conclude that non-degenerate versions of the Grossman (1972a, 1972b) model and its extensions can explain many salient stylized facts on health inequalities. Yet, further development is required in at least two directions. First, a childhood phase needs to be incorporated, in recognition of the importance of childhood endowments and investments in the determination of later-life socioeconomic and health outcomes. Second, a unified theory of joint investment in skill (or human) capital and in health capital could provide a basis for a theory of the relationship between education and health.




Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health under Award Numbers K02AG042452 and R01AG037398. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. Titus Galama is grateful to the Erasmus School of Economics of Erasmus University Rotterdam for a Visiting Professorship in the Economics of Human Capital. We thank the editors for helpful comments and suggestions.


Galama, T.J. and van Kippersluis, H. (2013), "Health Inequalities through the Lens of Health-Capital Theory: Issues, Solutions, and Future Directions", Health and Inequality (Research on Economic Inequality, Vol. 21), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 263-284.



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