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How Does the Business Cycle Affect Eating Habits?

  • Dhaval M. Dave
  • Inas Rashad Kelly

As economic expansions raise employment and wages, associated shifts in income and time constraints would be expected to also impact individuals' health. This study utilizes information from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (1990-2007) to explore the relationship between the risk of unemployment and the consumption of various healthy and unhealthy foods. Estimates, based on fixed effects methodologies, indicate that a higher risk of unemployment is associated with reduced consumption of fruits and vegetables and increased consumption of "unhealthy" foods such as snacks and fast food. In addition to estimation of the average population effect, heterogeneous responses are also identified through detailed sample stratifications and by isolating the effect for those predicted to be at highest risk of unemployment based on their socio-economic characteristics. Among individuals predicted to be at highest risk of being unemployed, a one percentage point increase in the resident state's unemployment rate is associated with a 2-8% reduction in the consumption of fruits and vegetables. The impact is somewhat higher among married individuals and older adults. Supplementary analyses also explore specific mediating pathways, and point to reduced family income and adverse mental health as significant channels underlying the procyclical nature of healthy food consumption.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w16638.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16638.

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Date of creation: Dec 2010
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Publication status: published as Dave, Dhaval M. & Kelly, Inas Rashad, 2012. "How does the business cycle affect eating habits?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 74(2), pages 254-262.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16638
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  1. Dhaval Dave & Robert Kaestner, 2006. "Health Insurance and Ex Ante Moral Hazard: Evidence from Medicare," NBER Working Papers 12764, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Daniel Sullivan & Till von Wachter, 2009. "Job Displacement and Mortality: An Analysis Using Administrative Data," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(3), pages 1265-1306.
  3. Ruhm, Christopher J., 2003. "Healthy Living in Hard Times," IZA Discussion Papers 711, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Christopher J. Ruhm, 2010. "Understanding Overeating and Obesity," NBER Working Papers 16149, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Ulf-G. Gerdtham & Christopher J. Ruhm, 2002. "Deaths Rise in Good Economic Times: Evidence From the OECD," NBER Working Papers 9357, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Christopher J. Ruhm, 2000. "Are Recessions Good for Your Health?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(2), pages 617-650.
  7. Dhaval M. Dave & Inas Rashad Kelly, 2010. "How Does the Business Cycle Affect Eating Habits?," NBER Working Papers 16638, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Dustmann, Christian & Windmeijer, Frank, 2000. "Wages and the Demand for Health - A Life Cycle Analysis," IZA Discussion Papers 171, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  9. Christopher J. Ruhm, 2006. "A Healthy Economy Can Break Your Heart," NBER Working Papers 12102, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Thomas S. Dee, 2001. "Alcohol abuse and economic conditions: Evidence from repeated cross-sections of individual-level data," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 10(3), pages 257-270.
  11. Christian, Thomas & Rashad, Inas, 2009. "Trends in U.S. food prices, 1950-2007," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 113-120, March.
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  13. William N. Evans & Timothy J. Moore, 2012. "Liquidity, Economic Activity, and Mortality," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 94(2), pages 400-418, May.
  14. Justine S. Hastings & Ebonya L. Washington, 2008. "The First of the Month Effect: Consumer Behavior and Store Responses," NBER Working Papers 14578, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Christopher J. Ruhm, 2004. "Macroeconomic Conditions, Health and Mortality," NBER Working Papers 11007, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Charles, Kerwin Kofi & DeCicca, Philip, 2008. "Local labor market fluctuations and health: Is there a connection and for whom?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(6), pages 1532-1550, December.
  17. Ettner, Susan L., 1997. "Measuring the human cost of a weak economy: Does unemployment lead to alcohol abuse?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 44(2), pages 251-260, January.
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  19. repec:oup:restud:v:65:y:1998:i:2:p:261-94 is not listed on IDEAS
  20. Evans, William N. & Moore, Timothy J., 2011. "The short-term mortality consequences of income receipt," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(11), pages 1410-1424.
  21. Edwards, Ryan, 2008. "Who is hurt by procyclical mortality?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 67(12), pages 2051-2058, December.
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