Social Insurance and Widowhood in Costa Rica

William H. Dow, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Kristy Gonzalez, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Luis Rosero-Bixby, Universidad de Costa Rica

Numerous studies have documented adverse mortality effects of widowhood. Recent work in Costa Rica, however, has found the absence of such an effect. This paper investigates the role of social insurance in explaining these phenomena, given Costa Rica's extensive social insurance coverage. Costa Rica increased social health insurance coverage from 40% to over 70% during the 1970s, a period of relative female mortality improvement. Using both aggregated county-level vital statistics and individual women-level census data, we analyze this insurance expansion as a natural experiment, employing county fixed effects models to estimate the causal insurance effects on the relative mortality outcomes of widows.

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Presented in Session 42: Social Environment and Adult Health in Developing Countries