Is it Really about Time and Gender?: Spousal Employment and Behavioral Investments in Health

Patrick Krueger, University of Pennsylvania

Employed individuals generally exhibit better health than their non-employed counterparts. But wives garner health advantages if their husbands are employed or earn high incomes, although husbands typically experience worse health if their wives are employed or earn high levels of income. I employ the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) to test whether these relationships hold when predicting changes in health behaviors between 1998 and 2000. Contrary to prior work, I find that (1) employment is inconsistently related to changes in health behaviors for men and women, (2) having a husband who works or earns high levels of income is seldom associated with changes toward healthier behaviors for women, and (3) having a wife who works or earns high levels of income is inconsistently associated with changes in husbands’ health behaviors for men. I discuss reasons why the intersection among gender, marriage, employment, and behavioral investments in health is inadequately explained by current sociological theory.

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Presented in Session 53: Marital Status, Partnership Status, and Health