The National Bureau of Economic Research recently released a Working Paper that discusses key similarities between our own health care and the care that we provide for our dogs, cats, and other pets. The authors point to 4 main areas where U.S. economic data indicates that our human and pet health spending patterns converge. Here’s a brief rundown:
Rapid growth in human and pet health care spending over the last two decades.
Pet care has experienced greater growth than all other areas of household spending categories. Next is human health care, followed by housing, and lastly, entertainment. Data shows strong growth in pet care spending beginning around 2005-2006 that continues at a high rate today.
A strong correlation between income and pet & human health spending.
Not surprisingly, households in the highest income category ($70,000 annually and above) spend more on human and pet health care (as well as housing and entertainment) than households in lower income categories. Pet spending is 114% more in the highest income households than in the lowest.
Rapid growth in the employment of human and pet health care providers.
The supply of human health care providers and pet health care professionals has grown dramatically over the past couple of decades. While the supply of human physicians has increased 40% between 1996 and 2013, the supply of veterinarians has doubled.
High spending for end-of-life care for both humans and pets.
A comparison of end-of-life care for pets and humans (using canine cancer patients and human cancer patients on Medicare) shows that there is a distinct end-of-life spending spike (particularly in the last month of life) for both. Human spending begins to increase 3-4 months prior to death while pet spending generally increases just one month before.