Cumulative Effects of Job Characteristics on Health

Jason M. Fletcher, Jody L. Sindelar, Shintaro Yamaguchi

NBER Working Paper No. 15121
Issued in June 2009
NBER Program(s):Economics of Aging, Health Economics

We examine whether the job characteristics of physical demands and environmental conditions affect individual's health. Five-year cumulative measures of these job characteristics are used to reflect findings in the biologic and physiologic literature that indicate that cumulative exposure to hazards and stresses harms health. To create our analytic sample, we merge job characteristics from the Dictionary of Occupational Titles with the Panel Study of Income Dynamics dataset. We control for early and lagged health measures and a set of pre-determined characteristics to address concerns that individuals self-select into jobs. Our results indicate that individuals who work in jobs with the 'worst' conditions experience declines in their health, though this effect varies by demographic group. For example, for non-white men, a one standard deviation increase in cumulative physical demands decreases health by an amount that offsets an increase of two years of schooling or four years of aging. We also find evidence that job characteristics are more detrimental to the health of females and older workers. Finally, we report suggestive evidence that earned income, another job characteristic, partially cushions the health impact of physical demands and harsh environmental conditions for workers. These results are robust to inclusion of occupation fixed effects.

download in pdf format
   (114 K)

email paper

A non-technical summary of this paper is available in the September 2009 NBER Digest.  You can sign up to receive the NBER Digest by email.

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w15121

Published: Jason M. Fletcher & Jody L. Sindelar & Shintaro Yamaguchi, 2011. "Cumulative effects of job characteristics on health," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 20(5), pages 553-570, May. citation courtesy of

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Sindelar, Fletcher, Falba, Keenan, and Gallo w13715 Impact of First Occupation on Health at Older Ages
Fletcher and Sindelar w15256 Estimating Causal Effects of Early Occupational Choice on Later Health: Evidence Using the PSID
Case and Deaton w9821 Broken Down by Work and Sex: How Our Health Declines
Kelly, Dave, Sindelar, and Gallo w16803 The Impact of Early Occupational Choice On Health Behaviors
Morefield, Ribar, and Ruhm w16794 Occupational Status and Health Transitions
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us