November 26, 2012

CAAR – National Bureau of Economics Research Working Papers – November 26, 2012

Filed under: Working Papers — Tags: , , — admin @ 4:21 pm

A. “The Effect of Pharmaceutical Innovation on Longevity: Patient-Level Evidence from the 1996-2002 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey and Linked Mortality Public-Use Files,” by Frank R. Lichtenberg (w18552, November 2012, .pdf format, 23p.).


We investigate the effect of the vintage (year of FDA approval) of the prescription drugs used by an individual on his or her survival and medical expenditure. When we only control for age, sex, and interview year, we estimate that a one-year increase in drug vintage increases life expectancy by 0.52%. Controlling for other variables including activity limitations, race, education, family income as a percent of the poverty line, insurance coverage, Census region, BMI, smoking and over 100 medical conditions has virtually no effect on the estimate of the effect of drug vintage on life expectancy.

Between 1996 and 2003, the mean vintage of prescription drugs increased by 6.6 years. This is estimated to have increased life expectancy of elderly Americans by 0.41-0.47 years. This suggests that not less than two-thirds of the 0.6-year increase in the life expectancy of elderly Americans during 1996-2003 was due to the increase in drug vintage. The 1996-2003 increase in drug vintage is also estimated to have increased annual drug expenditure per elderly American by $207, and annual total medical expenditure per elderly American by $218. This implies that the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (cost per life-year gained) of pharmaceutical innovation was about $12,900

B. “The Asset Price Meltdown and the Wealth of the Middle Class,” by Edward N. Wolff (w18559, November 2012, .pdf format, 74p.).


I find that median wealth plummeted over the years 2007 to 2010, and by 2010 was at its lowest level since 1969. The inequality of net worth, after almost two decades of little movement, was up sharply from 2007 to 2010. Relative indebtedness continued to expand from 2007 to 2010, particularly for the middle class, though the proximate causes were declining net worth and income rather than an increase in absolute indebtedness. In fact, the average debt of the middle class actually fell in real terms by 25 percent. The sharp fall in median wealth and the rise in inequality in the late 2000s are traceable to the high leverage of middle class families in 2007 and the high share of homes in their portfolio. The racial and ethnic disparity in wealth holdings, after remaining more or less stable from 1983 to 2007, widened considerably between 2007 and 2010. Hispanics, in particular, got hammered by the Great Recession in terms of net worth and net equity in their homes. Households under age 45 also got pummeled by the Great Recession, as their relative and absolute wealth declined sharply from 2007 to 2010.

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