Gender, health, the decisions we make and the actions we take

Abstract: This thesis comprises of four self-contained papers that use both experimental and applied micro-econometric methods to explore different aspects of gender, health, the decisions we make, and the actions we take. In the first paper we investigate changes in psychiatric diagnoses and their income-related inequalities over time in Sweden and attempt to disentangle the development by decomposing changes over time in terms of population-level changes in education and migration background. Using Swedish administrative data we find that income-related inequalities in mental ill health increased dramatically between 1994 and 2011, but changes in education and migration background were not important drivers of these increases.The second paper aims to improve our understanding of the use of commitment contracts to help individuals achieve their physical activity goals. We experimentally compare the success of commitment contracts with and without financial stakes attached, and find a significant positive impact of being offered a hard contract. Importantly, we find that the effects are strongest among participants who reported exercising the least at baseline.In the third paper we seek to establish the effect of access to universal primary school-based health services in Sweden on long-term health and socioeconomic outcomes, using historical data on the timing of implementation of school health services in school districts in Sweden combined with administrative data. This paper helps shed light on the importance of interventions occurring during childhood on later life outcomes. Overall, we find little evidence that access to universal primary school-based health services leads to improved outcomes either during school ages or in later life.In the fourth paper, I conduct a pilot study to experimentally investigate the role of children’s books in the early internalisation of norms regarding gender, family, and careers. The motivation for this study was the fact that when women have children, they tend to make labour market decisions that result in substantial and persistent losses in earnings. The study was under-powered to draw strong conclusions, but results suggest exposure to a book that communicates a strong, positive message about mothers in both career and family roles may lead to reductions in implicit and explicit biases about gender, family and careers.