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How do economic downturns affect the mental health of children? Evidence from the National Health Interview Survey

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  • Ezra Golberstein
  • Gilbert Gonzales
  • Ellen Meara

Abstract

Research linking economic conditions and health often does not consider children's mental health problems, which are the most common and consequential health issues for children and adolescents. We examine the effects of unemployment rates and housing prices on well‐validated child and adolescent mental health outcomes and use of special education services for emotional problems in the 2001–2013 National Health Interview Survey. We find that the effects of economic conditions on children's mental health are clinically and economically meaningful; children's mental health outcomes worsen as the economy weakens. The effects of economic conditions on child and adolescent mental health are pervasive, found in almost every subgroup that we examine. The use of special education services for emotional problems also rises when economic conditions worsen. Our analyses of possible mechanisms that link economic conditions to child mental health suggest that parental unemployment cannot fully explain the relationship between economic conditions and child mental health.

Suggested Citation

  • Ezra Golberstein & Gilbert Gonzales & Ellen Meara, 2019. "How do economic downturns affect the mental health of children? Evidence from the National Health Interview Survey," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 28(8), pages 955-970, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:hlthec:v:28:y:2019:i:8:p:955-970
    DOI: 10.1002/hec.3885
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    File URL: https://doi.org/10.1002/hec.3885
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    2. Haleemunnissa, S. & Didel, Siyaram & Swami, Mukesh Kumar & Singh, Kuldeep & Vyas, Varuna, 2021. "Children and COVID19: Understanding impact on the growth trajectory of an evolving generation," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 120(C).
    3. Laura Feiveson & Nils Gornemann & Julie L. Hotchkiss & Karel Mertens & Jae W. Sim, 2020. "Distributional Considerations for Monetary Policy Strategy," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2020-073, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).

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