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Soc Sci Med. 2008 Dec;67(12):2051-8. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2008.09.032. Epub 2008 Nov 1.

Who is hurt by procyclical mortality?

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  • 1Department of Economics, Queens College, City University of New York, Flushing, NY 11367, USA.


There is renewed interest in understanding how fluctuations in mortality and in health are related to fluctuations in economic conditions. The traditional perspective that economic recessions lower health and raise mortality has been challenged by recent findings that reveal mortality is actually procyclical. The epidemiology of the phenomenon - traffic accidents, cardiovascular disease, and smoking and drinking - suggests that socioeconomically vulnerable populations might be disproportionately at risk of "working themselves to death" during periods of heightened economic activity. In this paper, I examine mortality by individual characteristic during the 1980s and 1990s using the U.S. National Longitudinal Mortality Study. I find scant evidence that disadvantaged groups are significantly more exposed to procyclical mortality. Rather, working-age men with more education appear to bear a heavier burden, while those with little education experience countercyclical mortality.

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