The effect of job loss on overweight and drinking
This paper examines the impact of job loss due to business closings on body mass index (BMI) and alcohol consumption. We suggest that the ambiguous findings in the extant literature may be due in part to unobserved heterogeneity in response and in part due to an overly broad measure of job loss that is partially endogenous (e.g., layoffs). We improve upon this literature using: exogenously determined business closings, a sophisticated estimation approach (finite mixture models) to deal with complex heterogeneity, and national, longitudinal data from the Health and Retirement Study. For both alcohol consumption and BMI, we find evidence that individuals who are more likely to respond to job loss by increasing unhealthy behaviors are already in the problematic range for these behaviors before losing their jobs. These results suggest the health effects of job loss could be concentrated among "at risk" individuals and could lead to negative outcomes for the individuals, their families, and society at large.
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