Date

2017

Department or Program

Economics

Primary Wellesley Thesis Advisor

Kristin Butcher

Abstract

The current aging of the U.S. population carries substantial social and economic costs, as many elderly individuals must seek out assistance with long-term medical and custodial care. This paper studies whether increases in the number of low-skilled immigrants, who are disproportionately concentrated in the health care and home production fields, have impacted the housing decisions and health of elderly individuals. Using an instrumental variable strategy to exploit state-by-time variation in the concentration of immigrants in the U.S., I find that low-skilled immigration increases the share of low-skilled labor in the labor force, which in turn decreases the probability of elderly persons living in institutions. Given that elderly individuals have indicated preferences for aging within their own homes as opposed to moving into skilled nursing facilities, these results imply that the composition of local labor markets can encourage the actualization of elderly choice. My results on elderly mortality, however, are less conclusive. The findings suggest a positive impact of increased low-skilled labor force shares on the average age at death for the elderly but an insignificant impact on aggregate mortality rates.

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