A Couple-Level Analysis of Unemployment and Health Behaviors

Margaret Gough, Harvard University

The literature linking unemployment, economic uncertainty, and health presents a long-standing paradox: aggregate unemployment or economic uncertainty is generally associated with improved population health, but individual unemployment is associated with worse individual health. In this paper I estimate the effects of unemployment and the recent recession on individuals’ health behaviors and the health behaviors of their partners using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics and the American Time Use Survey. By drawing on the framework that unemployment is a household experience, this examination of health behaviors links population-level and family-level processes to provide insight into the micro-foundations that underlie the relationships between economy, employment, and health. The results of the analysis may shed light on possible avenues for health interventions for unemployed individuals and their families.

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Presented in Session 58: Health Behaviors and Inequality