Why is money more important than education?

Equal opportunities: Education and health are more important than social benefits

Vienna - If you want to increase the blood pressure for a round in a pub, you only have to address the salaries of some company bosses in the millions. For many, the great gap between high and low earners is an injustice that screams to heaven. Those who have more money can put their children in better schools, buy a nicer house and go on vacation more often. And: He lives a lot longer too. The higher the income, the higher the average life expectancy.

A new study now shows that it is worth taking a closer look at the numbers. If you believe the paper by economists from the Linz Kepler University and the Vienna University of Economics, then at least the latter is wrong for Austria. A higher income does not make people live longer. The end works the other way round: Those who live longer also earn more. So life expectancy has an impact on income and not the other way around.

Insurance data as a basis

In order to study the relationship between income and life expectancy, the economists rattled the social security data of over a million people living in Austria through their model. Anyone who was over 40 on April 1, 2002 and had a job that was registered with the health insurance company can be found in the figures. The groups were then ranked according to their income and who was no longer alive ten years later was analyzed.

At first glance, the result confirmed the connection that is generally believed to be known. Those who earn more also have a longer life expectancy. The result was drastic. The ten percent who earned the least are three times as likely to have died as the top ten percent. The higher the income, the smaller the gray bar that shows the probability of death. The relationship is much stronger in men than in women.

Health makes you productive

But economists wanted to know more. Where does this effect come from? To get deeper into the data, they used a trick. Larger companies tend to pay their employees better wages. So anyone who works for a company like this would have to live longer if the theory is correct. Because the incomes differ significantly over time. But that is exactly what could not be proven.

From this, the researchers conclude that the effect goes in the other direction. Those who are healthier and lead a less risky lifestyle live longer and tend to be more productive because they are better educated. Therefore, he or she deserves better. At least for Austria, there is therefore no causal relationship between high income and high life expectancy. This is probably explained by the good access to the health system for all people in the country, it says in the conclusion of the paper. There are many studies in Europe that come to similar results, says Rudolf Winter-Ebmer, one of the authors. People who are unemployed or who stay at home with their children cannot find themselves at work.

Scissors in life expectancy

A study by the economist Raj Chetty on the same topic was recently published in the USA. The gap in life expectancy between the poor and the rich widened by a whopping three years in the US between 2001 and 2014. The majority can be explained by the behavior of the people, they do less sport and smoke more. Income or access to hospitals has little influence on this, according to the economist.

What conclusions can be drawn from the results? If you want to increase the life expectancy of people with lower incomes, it does not help to provide them with higher transfer payments, the authors say. We need to invest more in preventive health measures and training. (Andreas Sator, May 27, 2016)