The Best of Times, the Worst of Times: Understanding Pro-Cyclical Mortality

45 Pages Posted: 17 Dec 2011 Last revised: 20 Dec 2011

See all articles by Ann Huff Stevens

Ann Huff Stevens

University of California, Davis - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Douglas L. Miller

University of California, Davis - Department of Economics

Marianne Page

University of California, Davis

Mateusz J. Filipski

University of Georgia; IFPRI

Date Written: December 2011

Abstract

A growing literature documents cyclical movements in mortality and health. We examine this pattern more closely and attempt to identify the mechanisms behind it. Specifically, we distinguish between mechanisms that rely on fluctuations in own employment or time use and those involving factors that are external to the individual. Our investigation suggests that changes in individuals' own behavior contribute very little to pro-cyclical mortality. Looking across broad age and gender groups, we find that own-group employment rates are not systematically related to own-group mortality. In addition, we find that most of the additional deaths that occur during times of economic growth are among the elderly, particularly elderly women, who have limited labor force attachment. Focusing on mortality among the elderly, we show that cyclicality is especially strong for deaths occurring in nursing homes, and is stronger in states where a higher fraction of the elderly reside in nursing homes. We also demonstrate that staffing in skilled nursing facilities moves counter-cyclically. Taken together, these findings suggest that cyclical fluctuations in the mortality rate may be largely driven by fluctuations in the quality of health care.

Suggested Citation

Stevens, Ann and Miller, Douglas L. and Page, Marianne and Filipski, Mateusz J., The Best of Times, the Worst of Times: Understanding Pro-Cyclical Mortality (December 2011). NBER Working Paper No. w17657, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1973868

Ann Stevens (Contact Author)

University of California, Davis - Department of Economics ( email )

One Shields Drive
Davis, CA 95616-8578
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
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Douglas L. Miller

University of California, Davis - Department of Economics ( email )

One Shields Drive
Davis, CA 95616-8578
United States
530-752-8490 (Phone)

Marianne Page

University of California, Davis ( email )

One Shields Drive
Davis, CA 95616-8578
United States
530-752-1551 (Phone)

Mateusz J. Filipski

University of Georgia ( email )

Athens, GA 30602-6254
United States

IFPRI ( email )

2033 K Street NW
Washington, DC 20006

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