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Long-Run Earnings Volatility and Health Insurance Coverage: Evidence from the SIPP Gold Standard File

March 2011

Matthew S. Rutledge, Boston College

Download 'working_paper11-06.pdf'.


Despite the notable increase in earnings volatility and the attention paid to the growing ranks of the uninsured, the relationship between career earnings and short- and medium- run health insurance status has been ignored due to a lack of data. I use a new dataset, the SIPP Gold Standard File, that merges health insurance status and demographics from the Survey of Income and Program Participation with career earnings records from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to examine the relationship between long-run family earnings volatility and health insurance coverage. I find that more volatile career earnings are associated with an increased probability of experiencing an uninsured episode, with larger effects for men, young workers, and the unmarried. These findings are consistent with the "scarring" literature, and suggest the importance of safety-net measures for job losses and health insurance coverage.

Employment, Unemployment, and the Labor Market, Health, Health Insurance, and Health Care