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Reference-Dependent Effects of Unemployment on Mental Health

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  • Grunow, Martina

Abstract

This paper provides an empirical analysis of reference-dependent effects of unemployment on mental health. I show that the negative effect of unemployment on mental health depends on expectations about the future employment status. 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 health. 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 health. To identify a causal effect of unemployment, expectations and their interactions on mental health, 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 health. Furthermore, the results deliver empirical evidence for reference-dependent effects of unemployment on mental health. We find that becoming unemployed unexpectedly has a more severe negative effect on mental health as if the unemployment was expected. Therefore, this paper contributes to the understanding of how mental health is affected by unemployment and delivers empirical support for the theoretical models of reference-dependent utility. --

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Paper provided by Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association in its series Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order with number 80051.

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Date of creation: 2013
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Handle: RePEc:zbw:vfsc13:80051

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  1. Clark, Andrew E & Oswald, Andrew J, 1994. "Unhappiness and Unemployment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(424), pages 648-59, May.
  2. Botond Koszegi & Matthew Rabin, 2004. "A Model of Reference-Dependent Preferences," Method and Hist of Econ Thought 0407001, EconWPA.
  3. Andrew E. Clark & Andreas Knabe & Steffen Rätzel, 2008. "Unemployment as a social norm in Germany," PSE Working Papers halshs-00586249, HAL.
  4. Ruhm, Christopher J., 2005. "Healthy living in hard times," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 341-363, March.
  5. Card, David & Dahl, Gordon B., 2010. "Family Violence and Football: The Effect of Unexpected Emotional Cues on Violent Behavior," IZA Discussion Papers 4869, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Ruhm, Christopher J., 2003. "Good times make you sick," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(4), pages 637-658, July.
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