How Does Debt Shape Health Outcomes for Older Americans?
Stipica Mudrazija and Barbara Butrica, Urban Institute
This study explores the association between debt burdens and health at older ages. It examines a range of physical and mental health measures and assesses how they may be shaped by the debt held by older adults. It compares health outcomes for older adults with and without debt. It also explores whether the amount or type of debt modifies the debt-health nexus. To address the likely endogeneity of debt and health, the study employs marginal structural models, developed specifically as an identification strategy in the presence of possible endogeneity, alongside population-averaged models that allow us to compare outcomes for populations with and without debt without having to rely on unverifiable assumptions regarding the underlying population distribution, as is the case with random- and fixed-effects models. Data for this study come primarily from the Health and Retirement Study, and the sample is limited to respondents ages 55 and older from the 1998 through 2016 survey waves.