Stanford University

WORKING PAPER

Place-Based Drivers of Mortality: Evidence from Migration

Matthew Gentzkow
Amy Finkelstein
Heidi Williams

American Economic Review
August 2021

We estimate the effect of current location on elderly mortality by analyzing outcomes of movers in the Medicare population. We control for movers’ origin locations as well as a rich vector of pre-move health measures. We also develop a novel strategy to adjust for remaining unobservables, using the correlation of residual mortality with movers’ origins to gauge the importance of omitted variables. We estimate substantial effects of current location. Moving from a tenth to a ninetieth percentile location would increase life expectancy at age 65 by 1.1 years, and equalizing location effects would reduce cross-sectional variation in life expectancy by 15 percent. Places with favorable life expectancy effects tend to have higher quality and quantity of health care, less extreme climates, lower crime rates, and higher socioeconomic status.

Stanford University