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Unemployment and Smoking: Causation, Selection, or Common Cause? Evidence from Longitudinal Data


  • Reinhard Schunck
  • Benedikt G. Rogge


Background: This study investigates possible mechanisms that can explain the association between unemployment and smoking, that is a) unemployment increases smoking probability (causation), b) smoking increases the probability to become unemployed (selection), and c) differences in both smoking and unemployment probabilities trace back to differences in socio-economic position (common cause). Methods: Longitudinal data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) from the years 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008 were used to examine the effect of unemployment on smoking probability and vice versa (65,823 observations from 18,735 respondents, aged 18-60 years). Effects were estimated by using random and fixed effects logistic panel regressions. Results: Results from the random effects logistic regression model suggest that unemployed have a higher probability to smoke and that smokers have a higher probability to become unemployed. However, the fixed effects models indicate that the observed associations are driven by unobserved factors. Results indicate that both smoking and unemployment probability co-vary systematically with (childhood) socio-economic position. Conclusion: In contrast to previous studies, the present investigation suggests that there is neither a direct causal effect of unemployment on smoking behaviour nor a direct effect of smoking on unemployment probability. Rather, smoking and unemployment seem to be related through a common cause, with people from low socio-economic backgrounds being more likely to smoke as well as to become unemployed. These findings are interpreted in the frame of a life course perspective on the development of socially unequal health behaviours.

Suggested Citation

  • Reinhard Schunck & Benedikt G. Rogge, 2012. "Unemployment and Smoking: Causation, Selection, or Common Cause? Evidence from Longitudinal Data," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 491, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  • Handle: RePEc:diw:diwsop:diw_sp491

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jan Marcus, 2014. "Does Job Loss Make You Smoke and Gain Weight?," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 81(324), pages 626-648, October.
    2. Jeffrey M Wooldridge, 2010. "Econometric Analysis of Cross Section and Panel Data," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 2, volume 1, number 0262232588.
    3. Martin Kroh, 2010. "Documentation of Sample Sizes and Panel Attrition in the German Socio Economic Panel (SOEP) (1984 until 2009)," Data Documentation 50, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    4. James J. Heckman & Jora Stixrud & Sergio Urzua, 2006. "The Effects of Cognitive and Noncognitive Abilities on Labor Market Outcomes and Social Behavior," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(3), pages 411-482, July.
    5. Deb, Partha & Gallo, William T. & Ayyagari, Padmaja & Fletcher, Jason M. & Sindelar, Jody L., 2011. "The effect of job loss on overweight and drinking," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 317-327, March.
    6. Lars Kroll & Thomas Lampert, 2011. "Changing health inequalities in Germany from 1994 to 2008 between employed and unemployed adults," International Journal of Public Health, Springer;Swiss School of Public Health (SSPH+), vol. 56(3), pages 329-339, June.
    7. Reinhard Schunck & Benedikt Rogge, 2010. "Unemployment and its association with health-relevant actions: investigating the role of time perspective with German census data," International Journal of Public Health, Springer;Swiss School of Public Health (SSPH+), vol. 55(4), pages 271-278, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Theresia Theurl & Jochen Wicher & Christina Cappenberg, 2012. "Merkmale und Einschätzungen der Bewohner von Wohnungsgenossenschaften: eine Charakterisierung auf Basis des Sozio-oekonomischen Panels," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 524, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    2. Theurl, Theresia & Wicher, Jochen & Cappenberg, Christina, 2013. "Eigenschaften und Einstellungen von Bewohnern von Wohnungsgenossenschaften," Arbeitspapiere 129, University of M√ľnster, Institute for Cooperatives.

    More about this item


    Health behaviour; smoking; unemployment; longitudinal analysis; life course; health inequality; fixed effects; random effects;

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • J64 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment: Models, Duration, Incidence, and Job Search

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