The Effects of Promotions on Heart Disease: Evidence from Whitehall


  •  Corresponding author: Michael Anderson, 207 Giannini Hall MC 3310, Berkeley, CA 94720-3310, USA. Email:

  • We are extremely grateful to Tarani Chandola and other members of the Whitehall II Study Group, for their help in accessing the data used in this study. We also thank Jerome Adda, Anna Aizer, Josh Angrist, David Autor, David Card, Michael Greenstone, Jonathan Gruber, Ted Miguel and members of the MIT Labor Lunch, UC Berkeley Health Economics Workshop and UIC Health Economics Seminar for their insightful comments. Funding from the National Institute on Aging, through Grant Number T32-AG00186 to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the George Schultz Fund and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is gratefully acknowledged. The authors bear sole responsibility for the contents of this article.


The positive relationship between SES and health is well documented but limited evidence exists regarding the effect of an exogenous manipulation of SES on health. This article estimates the effect of promotions on heart disease using data on British civil servants from the Whitehall II study. Differences in promotion rates across departments and cohorts generate plausibly exogenous variation in promotion opportunities. The results suggest that promotions may reduce the probability of developing heart disease by 2.6–12.8 percentage points over a 15-year period. These estimates appear robust and are several times larger than cross-sectional estimates.