JRC B2 Seminar: “Trends in Inequality of Opportunity in health over the life cycle: the role of early-life conditions” – Matija Kovacic


This paper explores the evolution of inequality of opportunity in the prevalence of chronic diseases along the life cycle and across different birth cohorts for individuals aged 50 or older and residing in 13 European countries. We adopt an ex-ante parametric approach and rely on the dissimilarity index as our reference inequality metric. In addition to a commonly used set of circumstances, we pay particular attention to the role of adverse early-life conditions, such as the experience of harm and the quality of the relationship with parents. In order to quantify the relative importance of each circumstance, we apply the Shapley inequality decomposition method. Our results suggest that inequality of opportunity in health is not stable over the life cycle – it is generally lower at younger ages and then monotonically increases. Moreover, it varies between different birth cohorts and is generally higher for younger individuals than for older age groups. Finally, the contribution of adverse early life conditions ranges between 25% and 45%, which is comparable to the share of socio-economic circumstances but significantly higher than the relative contribution of other demographic characteristics, especially at younger ages.


Matija Kovacic is a researcher in the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (Ispra). He is also affiliated with the Department of Economics at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice as a subject expert in Empirical Economics and Microeconomics. Before that, he was a post-doc researcher at the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and the “Marco Fanno” Department of Economics, University of Padua. His research interests include the analysis of individual attitudes and choices; inequality; and health economics.