DP13184-2 | 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), the US (HRS), and England (ELSA) to provide novel and comparable measurements of education and gender differences in life expectancy, years in disability, and the underlying multi-state life tables. Common across countries we find substantial interactions between socio-economic status and gender: (a) the education advantage in life expectancy is larger for males, while the education advantage in disability years is larger for females; and relatedly (b) the female advantage in life expectancy and the female disadvantage in disability years are both greatly reduced with education. These interactions happen because the education advantage is relatively more important in health transitions than in conditional survival among females, whereas the converse is true among males. Looking at the differences across countries, inequalities are largest in Eastern Europe and lowest in Scandinavia, while the US stands out as the most unequal across education groups in terms of health transitions and disability-free life expectancy. Finally, we find that countries with higher public health spending have smaller education advantage in conditional survival, the same advantage in health transitions, and smaller gradients in life expectancy.