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Reference-Dependent Effects of Unemployment on Mental Well-Being

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Several contributions to the literature have shown that the perception of the individual employment status depends on the surrounding unemployment rate. We argue that expectations are a possible link between unemployment rates and the individual employment status regarding changes in mental well-being. Theoretical foundation comes from models for reference-dependent preferences with endogenous reference points. We provide a simple theoretical model to motivate and structure the empirical analysis. Using data from the German Socio-Economic Panel, we estimate a pairwise interacted model for employment status and expectations over two time periods. Life satisfaction is used as a proxy for mental well-being. To identify a causal effect of unemployment, expectations and their interactions on mental well-being, the analysis relies on fixed effects and exogenous entries into unemployment due to plant closures. We confirm the standard result that unemployment has a negative effect on mental well-being. Furthermore, the results deliver empirical evidence for reference-dependent effects of unemployment on mental well-being. We find that becoming unemployed unexpectedly is more severe as if the unemployment was expected. Therefore, this paper contributes to the understanding of how mental well-being is affected by unemployment and delivers empirical support for the theoretical models of reference-dependent preference wit endogenous reference points determined by expectations.

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Paper provided by Universitaet Augsburg, Institute for Economics in its series Discussion Paper Series with number 323.

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Date of creation: Feb 2014
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Handle: RePEc:aug:augsbe:0323

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Keywords: Subjective Well-Being; Unemployment; Reference-Dependence; Reference Points;

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  14. Green, Francis & Felstead, Alan & Burchell, Brendan, 2000. " Job Insecurity and the Difficulty of Regaining Employment: An Empirical Study of Unemployment Expectations," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 62(0), pages 855-83, Special I.
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