One of the most striking and well-established findings in the social sciences is the very strong association between education and health. The substantial disparities in health between educational groups have attracted the attention of policymakers and reducing them is a key policy objective. Yet, surprisingly, very little is understood about this strong association, and despite previous policy efforts health disparities are increasing. In part, progress in understanding and reducing disparities has been hampered by the absence of a theoretical framework, that combines both human capital (e.g., education, [on-the-job] training) and health capital (health and longevity), to guide analyses, interpret results and derive new predictions. I have recently laid the foundation for such a theory by addressing a number of serious limitations that have long been identified with the health capital literature. I am an (award-winning, highly-cited) astrophysicist who has recently made a significant career change to the behavioral sciences. I recently completed a second PhD, this time in economics (June 2011) in which I developed a theory of disparities in health and longevity between socioeconomic status groups. As a fairly new entrant into economics, I have two immediate career objectives. First, I want to establish credibility as an economist by using the window of opportunity provided by the recent advances I made to develop a number of important life cycle theories (also Aim 1). Second, I want to strengthen the career transition to behavioral research, by further honing my skills in data analysis and econometric techniques by empirically testing my theories in collaboration with distinguished experts in relevant fields and methods (also Aim 2). My long-term career objectives are to build a research group and to establish a RAND center in human capital, health and aging (also Aim 3). The K02 mechanism would provide protected time for the proposed research agenda to achieve these immediate- and long-term career objectives. The proposed research can substantially enrich our understanding of the strong relationship between education and health, the role of institutions in encouraging investments in human capital and health, and open new avenues to addressing the observed significant disparities in health between educational groups. To ensure the success of the proposed work, I will be supported by a diverse group of renowned scholars. While their work is rooted in economics and epidemiology it draws on a variety of fields, including neurobiology, genetics, pharmacology, medicine, sociology and psychology. Further, I have the support of RAND's Labor and Population unit and access not only to the wide array of RAND's resources but also to those of my collaborators at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the University of Chicago, the London School of Economics, Erasmus University and SUNY at Buffalo (UB). My business and management skills, in combination with my ability to conduct high level research, ideally suit me to building a research group and setting up and directing a RAND center with a focus on human capital, health and aging research.

Public Health Relevance

One of the most striking and well-established findings in the social sciences is the very strong association between education and health, yet, very little is understood about the mechanisms underlying such health disparities. This project sheds light on this relation by further developing an economic theory of education and health, testing its predictions using structural- and reduced-form econometric techniques and employing the behavioral model to assess the relative effectiveness of alternative institutions / policies in creating healthy, wealthy and skilled societies.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Research Scientist Development Award - Research (K02)
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National Institute on Aging Initial Review Group (NIA)
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Phillips, John
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Rand Corporation
Santa Monica
United States
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van Kippersluis, Hans; Galama, Titus J (2014) Wealth and Health Behavior: Testing the Concept of a Health Cost. Eur Econ Rev 72:197-220