Estimating the Recession-Mortality Relationship When Migration Matters

90 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2017  

Vellore Arthi

University of Essex - Department of Economics

Brian Beach

College of William and Mary - Department of Economics

William Walker Hanlon

Leonard N. Stern School of Business - Department of Economics

Date Written: June 2017

Abstract

A large literature following Ruhm (2000) suggests that mortality falls during recessions and rises during booms. The panel-data approach used to generate these results assumes that either there is no substantial migration response to temporary changes in local economic conditions, or that any such response is accurately captured by intercensal population estimates. To assess the importance of these assumptions, we examine two natural experiments: the recession in cotton textile-producing districts of Britain during the U.S. Civil War, and the coal boom in Appalachian counties of the U.S. that followed the OPEC oil embargo in the 1970s. In both settings, we find evidence of a substantial migratory response. Moreover, we show that estimates of the relationship between business cycles and mortality are highly sensitive to assumptions related to migration. After adjusting for migration, we find that mortality increased during the cotton recession, but was largely unaffected by the coal boom. Overall, our results suggest that migration can meaningfully bias estimates of the impact of business-cycle fluctuations on mortality.

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Suggested Citation

Arthi, Vellore and Beach, Brian and Hanlon, William Walker, Estimating the Recession-Mortality Relationship When Migration Matters (June 2017). NBER Working Paper No. w23507. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2984683

Vellore Arthi (Contact Author)

University of Essex - Department of Economics ( email )

Wivenhoe Park
Colchester CO4 3SQ
United Kingdom

Brian Beach

College of William and Mary - Department of Economics ( email )

Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795
United States

William Walker Hanlon

Leonard N. Stern School of Business - Department of Economics ( email )

269 Mercer Street
New York, NY 10003
United States

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