DP13184 | Inequality in Life Expectancies across Europe

Publication Date


JEL Code(s)


Programme Area(s)


We use harmonized household panel data from 10 European countries (SHARE) plus US (HRS) and England (ELSA) to provide novel and comparable measurements of education and gender differences in life expectancy and disability-free life expectancy, as well as in the underlying multi-state life tables. Common across countries we find significant interactions between socio-economic status and gender: (a) the education advantage in life expectancy is larger for males, (b) the female advantage in life expectancy is larger among the low educated, (c) education reduces disability years and this added advantage is larger for females, and (d) females suffer more disability years but this disadvantage is hardly present for the high educated. Common across countries we also find that the education advantage in disability years is due to better health transitions by the highly-educated, and that the female disadvantage in disability years is due to better survival in ill-health by females. Looking at the differences across countries, we find that inequalities are largest in Eastern Europe, lowest in Scandinavia, and that the education gradient in life expectancy for males correlates positively with income inequality and negatively with public health spending across countries