Three essays on Informal Care, Health, and Education

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Heger, Dörte
Labour Economics , Economics of Education , Health Economics
This dissertation is a collection of three essays that use economic tools to address policy-relevant issues related to ageing, population health, and education. The use of economic modelling and econometric analyses has the potential to provide information on the consequences and effectiveness of policy interventions in these areas and enables policymakers to make better informed decisions. Chapter 1 provides an introduction to these topics and is followed by the three essays. In Chapter 2, I analyze how providing informal care to an elderly parent affects the caregiver's labour market outcomes, cognitive ability, and health; and study the influence of the institutional background on the caregiving decision and the effects of caregiving. My results show that negative effects on labour market outcomes can be avoided by the provision of formal care alternatives, but negative effects for caregivers' mental health persist. These findings give useful insights into the optimal provision of formal care in today's ageing societies. Self-reported health measures are commonly collected in numerous surveys but might be influenced by respondents' definitions and frames of reference of health. In Chapter 3, I address the issue of response bias in population surveys by constructing an objective measure of health. I find that using a common definition of health nearly eliminates the reported health differences between the U.S. and Canada. Socioeconomic differences in health are stronger in the U.S., but remain an issue in Canada. Chapter 4 studies the effect of post-secondary education on the continued development of reading proficiency during adolescence and young adulthood. Reading proficiency is essential for labour market success in a knowledge-based economy, but little is known about how advanced reading skills such as text interpretation and text evaluation are developed. The results show that university graduation increases students' reading proficiency relative to high school graduation, which demonstrates the importance of cognitive skill investments later in the life cycle.
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