Research AreasHealth
Globalization & Macroeconomics

PERI’s research on health policy addresses the social and economic determinants of health and enhances the integration of health and economic policy. We focus on the role of income support and social policies such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and their impact on population health and health disparities.

Impact of Food Insecurity on the Elderly

Food insecurity has been on the rise in the U.S., while social safety net programs have been targeted for cuts. Peter Arno, Kenneth Knapp, Stephen Russo and Deborah Viola assess the prevalence and impact of food insecurity in a survey of 500 elderly homebound meal clients in New York City. Their findings suggest that community-dwelling, homebound seniors have serious medical and health problems, multiple unmet social service needs, and often suffer from food insecurity. Understanding the relationship between these factors will help community organizations and government agencies assure the well-being of the elderly.

>> Read Rising Food Insecurity and Conservative Policy in the U.S.: Impact on the Elderly

Does the Earned Income Tax Credit Improve Health?

February 2015 -- Poverty and health have a well-established relationship: lower socioeconomic status leads to worse health outcomes. Yet research has rarely tested the effectiveness of anti-poverty programs at improving health. In this paper, Jeannette Wicks-Lim and Peter Arno examine the health effects of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the largest anti-poverty program for working families operating throughout the U.S. The authors find that New York’s EITC program reduced the low birth weight rate in poor neighborhoods, an important health indicator. The study is the first to analyze EITC’s impact on neighborhoods, rather than households, and finds a concentrated health benefit in high poverty areas.

>> Read "Improving Population Health by Reducing Poverty: New York’s Earned Income Tax Credit"

Solving Social Security’s Fiscal Dilemma

September 2011 -- In this Politico column, Peter Arno describes how only modest changes are needed to keep Social Security fiscally sound over the next 75 years; the projected shortfall is less than 1 percent of GDP. The drastic cuts to the program being considered by Congress —reducing benefits, cutting the cost of living adjustment and raising the retirement age — are not necessary and could indeed prove harmful. The relentless rise in income inequality over the past 30 years, combined with a legislated salary cap on the taxable contributions to Social Security, has meant that those at the very top of the income pyramid are contributing a smaller and smaller share of their income to Social Security.

>> Read "Solving Social Security’s Fiscal Dilemma"

Social Security and Population Health

May 2011 -- Peter Arno and colleagues find that following the initial implementation of Social Security in 1940, mortality rates declined among the elderly even more than among younger age groups. The trend continued when the Social Security program was markedly improved between the mid-1960s and the early 1970s. A better understanding of the link between Social Security and health status among the elderly would add a significant and missing dimension to the public discourse over the future of Social Security, and the potential role of income support programs in reducing health-related socioeconomic disparities and improving population health.

>> Download "Social Security and Mortality: The Role of Income Support Policies and Population Health in the United States

Does the Earned Income Tax Credit Improve Health Outcomes?

July 2009 -- The EITC lifts more children and non-elderly out of poverty than any other program and has been demonstrated to significantly increase employment, income and local economic activity. Peter Arno and his co-authors ask whether it may also improve health outcomes. Despite the fact that low socioeconomic status has been repeatedly linked to a greater mortality, researchers have rarely tested whether social programs designed to alleviate poverty or otherwise improve economic well-being are linked to health improvements.

>> Download "Bringing Health and Social Policy Together: The Case of the Earned Income Tax Credit