Economics and Philosophy

Essay

AGE-WEIGHTING*

Greg Bognara1

a1 Harvard University

Abstract

Some empirical findings seem to show that people value health benefits differently depending on the age of the beneficiary. Health economists and philosophers have offered justifications for these preferences on grounds of both efficiency and equity. In this paper, I examine the most prominent examples of both sorts of justification: the defence of age-weighting in the WHO's global burden of disease studies and the fair innings argument. I argue that neither sort of justification has been worked out in satisfactory form: age should not be taken into account in the framework of the burden of disease measure, and on the most promising formulations of the fair innings argument, it turns out to be merely an indicator of some other factor. I conclude by describing the role of age in theories of justice of healthcare resource allocation.

Footnotes

* I would like to thank Dan Brock, John Broome, Sam Kerstein, János Kis, Shlomi Segall and two anonymous referees for useful comments. I would especially like to thank the editor of the journal, Luc Bovens, for numerous suggestions for improving the paper.