Local Economic Hardship and Its Role in Life Expectancy Trends

Published: 2018
Project ID: UM18-07


Recent research has found, in some groups of Americans, dramatic increases in deaths due to drug overdose and suicide and stagnation in previous trends toward increased longevity. Continuing this line of study, we will examine the link between mortality and local economic downturns in the U.S., evaluating the role of economic shifts in these and related mortality trends. We also will examine the hypothesis that the longevity effects of poor economic prospects are seen largely though increased suicide, drug overdose, and other “deaths of despair,” as opposed to other causes linked to exposure to economic and social stress, including heart and cerebrovascular disease. To measure local economic shocks of lost employment and falling income, we will use the now common strategy of representing these shocks with the portion of changes in economic outcomes linked to increased imports from China. This approach avoids concerns that observed relationships represent reverse causality, in which poor health conditions in an area lead to economic downturns.