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Recessions, Older Workers, and Longevity: How Long Are Recessions Good For Your Health?

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  • Courtney C. Coile
  • Phillip B. Levine
  • Robin McKnight

Abstract

This paper examines the impact of exposure to higher unemployment rates in the pre-retirement years on subsequent mortality. Although past research has found that recessions reduce contemporaneous mortality, these short-term effects may reverse over time, particularly for older workers. If workers experience an economic downturn in their late 50s, they may face several years of reduced employment and earnings before “retiring” when they reach Social Security eligibility at age 62. They also may experience lost health insurance, and therefore higher financial barriers to health care, through age 65, when Medicare becomes available. All of these experiences could contribute to weaker long-term health outcomes. To examine these hypotheses, we use Vital Statistics mortality data between 1969 and 2008 to generate age-specific cohort survival probabilities at older ages. We then link these survival probabilities to labor market conditions at earlier ages. We also use data from the 1980-2010 March Current Population Surveys and the 1991-2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System surveys to explore potential mechanisms for this health effect. Our results indicate that experiencing a recession in one’s late 50s leads to a reduction in longevity. We also find that this exposure leads to several years of reduced employment, health insurance coverage, and health care utilization which may contribute to the lower long-term likelihood of survival.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18361.

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Date of creation: Sep 2012
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Publication status: published as Courtney C. Coile & Phillip B. Levine & Robin McKnight, 2014. "Recessions, Older Workers, and Longevity: How Long Are Recessions Good for Your Health?," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 6(3), pages 92-119, August.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18361

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  1. Cawley, John & Moriya, Asako S. & Simon, Kosali, 2011. "The Impact of the Macroeconomy on Health Insurance Coverage: Evidence from the Great Recession," IZA Discussion Papers 6124, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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  3. Christopher J. Ruhm, 1996. "Are Recessions Good For Your Health?," NBER Working Papers 5570, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Ann Huff Stevens & Douglas L. Miller & Marianne E. Page & Mateusz Filipski, 2011. "The Best of Times, the Worst of Times: Understanding Pro-cyclical Mortality," NBER Working Papers 17657, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Joanna N. Lahey, 2008. "Age, Women, and Hiring: An Experimental Study," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 43(1).
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  7. Courtney C. Coile, 2004. "Health Shocks and Couples' Labor Supply Decisions," NBER Working Papers 10810, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Stephen E. Snyder & William N. Evans, 2006. "The Effect of Income on Mortality: Evidence from the Social Security Notch," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(3), pages 482-495, August.
  9. Ruhm, Christopher J., 2003. "Healthy Living in Hard Times," IZA Discussion Papers 711, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  10. Mark A. Aguiar & Erik Hurst & Loukas Karabarbounis, 2011. "Time Use During Recessions," NBER Working Papers 17259, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Douglas L. Miller & Marianne E. Page & Ann Huff Stevens & Mateusz Filipski, 2009. "Why Are Recessions Good for Your Health?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 122-27, May.
  12. Daniel Sullivan & Till von Wachter, 2009. "Job Displacement and Mortality: An Analysis Using Administrative Data," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 124(3), pages 1265-1306, August.
  13. Tinna Laufey Ásgeirsdóttir & Hope Corman & Kelly Noonan & Þórhildur Ólafsdóttir & Nancy E. Reichman, 2012. "Are Recessions Good for Your Health Behaviors? Impacts of the Economic Crisis in Iceland," NBER Working Papers 18233, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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