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The Public Health Costs of Unemployment


  • Andreas KUHN
  • Rafael LALIVE


This paper studies how unemployment affects public health costs. We use plant closure as an instrument for unemployment because bankruptcy is unlikely to be caused by deteriorating health but has a strong impact on workers' subsequent employment. The empirical analysis is based on an extremely rich data set with comprehensive information on various types of health care costs and day-by-day work history of individual workers. Our central findings are (i) expenditures on medical treatments are not strongly affected by joblessness, (ii) lack of employment reduces mental health for men but not for women, and (iii) sickness benefit payments strongly increase due to job loss. Our results also show that OLS estimates strongly overestimate the causal effect of unemployment on public health costs.

Suggested Citation

  • Andreas KUHN & Rafael LALIVE & Josef ZWEIMÜLLER, 2007. "The Public Health Costs of Unemployment," Cahiers de Recherches Economiques du Département d'Econométrie et d'Economie politique (DEEP) 07.08, Université de Lausanne, Faculté des HEC, DEEP.
  • Handle: RePEc:lau:crdeep:07.08

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Christian Hagist & Laurence Kotlikoff, 2005. "Who's Going Broke? Comparing Growth in Healthcare Costs in Ten OECD Countries," NBER Working Papers 11833, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Johansson, Per & Palme, Marten, 1996. "Do economic incentives affect work absence? Empirical evidence using Swedish micro data," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 195-218, February.
    3. Stewart, Jennifer M., 2001. "The impact of health status on the duration of unemployment spells and the implications for studies of the impact of unemployment on health status," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(5), pages 781-796, September.
    4. Jan Erik Askildsen & Espen Bratberg & Øivind Anti Nilsen, 2005. "Unemployment, labor force composition and sickness absence: a panel data study," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 14(11), pages 1087-1101.
    5. Clark, Andrew E & Oswald, Andrew J, 1994. "Unhappiness and Unemployment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(424), pages 648-659, May.
    6. Currie, Janet & Madrian, Brigitte C., 1999. "Health, health insurance and the labor market," Handbook of Labor Economics,in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 50, pages 3309-3416 Elsevier.
    7. Martin Browning & Anne Moller Dano & Eskil Heinesen, 2006. "Job displacement and stress-related health outcomes," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 15(10), pages 1061-1075.
    8. Johansson, Per & Palme, Marten, 2005. "Moral hazard and sickness insurance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(9-10), pages 1879-1890, September.
    9. Gerdtham, Ulf-G. & Ruhm, Christopher J., 2006. "Deaths rise in good economic times: Evidence from the OECD," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 4(3), pages 298-316, December.
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    11. Goldsmith, Arthur H. & Veum, Jonathan R. & Darity, William Jr., 1996. "The psychological impact of unemployment and joblessness," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 25(3), pages 333-358.
    12. Grossman, Michael, 1972. "On the Concept of Health Capital and the Demand for Health," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 80(2), pages 223-255, March-Apr.
    13. Theodossiou, I., 1998. "The effects of low-pay and unemployment on psychological well-being: A logistic regression approach," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 85-104, January.
    14. Anders Bj�rklund, 1985. "Unemployment and Mental Health: Some Evidence from Panel Data," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 20(4), pages 469-483.
    15. Chevalier, Arnaud & Feinstein, Leon, 2006. "Sheepskin or Prozac: The Causal Effect of Education on Mental Health," IZA Discussion Papers 2231, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    16. 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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    19. repec:aph:ajpbhl:2004:94:12:2155-2161_1 is not listed on IDEAS
    20. Marcus Eliason & Donald Storrie, 2006. "Lasting or Latent Scars? Swedish Evidence on the Long-Term Effects of Job Displacement," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(4), pages 831-856, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Martin Huber & Michael Lechner & Conny Wunsch, 2011. "Does leaving welfare improve health? Evidence for Germany," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 20(4), pages 484-504, April.
    2. Mariya Melnychuk, 2012. "Mental health and economic conditions: how do economic fluctuations influence mental problems?," Working Papers. Serie AD 2012-08, Instituto Valenciano de Investigaciones Económicas, S.A. (Ivie).

    More about this item


    social cost of unemployment; health; non-employment; plant closure;

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I19 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Other
    • J28 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Safety; Job Satisfaction; Related Public Policy
    • J65 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment Insurance; Severance Pay; Plant Closings

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