Cancer and Economic Well-being among Working-age Women

Shannon Pullaro, Fordham University


Each year, more than 900,000 women are diagnosed with cancer. With improved screening and treatment, more women survive cancer than before. Many can consider returning to work but may experience a lasting impact on their economic well-being. This dissertation analyzes for working age women how cancer may be associated with and may affect economic well-being, namely employment outcomes and health related expenditures. There are few papers that analyze cancer and employment and fewer still, which study women under age 65. Two different data sets are studied in this dissertation: the 2011 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) with cancer questionnaire and 1999-2013 Panel Survey of Income Dynamics (PSID). Results indicate that a breast cancer diagnosis correlates with a lower probability of employment among working age women. Further, breast cancer survivors work on average three fewer hours per week, everything else held constant. In addition, a cancer diagnosis adversely affects various employment outcomes. Working age women with a prior cancer diagnosis have wages that are 16% (p=0.04) lower than for women who never received a diagnosis; their probability of being employed full or part time is also 12 (p=0.01) percentage points lower. Women living eight years past diagnosis have earnings that are 77% (p=0.02) and wages that are 32% (p=0.01) lower than for those of working age women with no history of cancer. Employment probability is also 5, 7, and 11 percentage points lower at two, four, and eight years, respectively, after known cancer onset, as compared to working age women with no history of the illness. Macroeconomic effects likely exceed $3.5 billion annually. However, there seems to be no statistically significant effect on the family-level health expenditures where the female household head or spouse/partner has a prior cancer diagnosis. Nonetheless, additional work is needed to consider the effects on economic well-being, given recent changes to laws relating to health insurance coverage.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Pullaro, Shannon, "Cancer and Economic Well-being among Working-age Women" (2018). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10814501.