Short-run Effects of Parental Job Loss on Child Health

Jessamyn Schaller, Mariana Zerpa

NBER Working Paper No. 21745
Issued in November 2015
NBER Program(s):Children, Health Economics, Labor Studies

Recent research suggests that parental job loss has negative effects on children's outcomes, including their academic achievement and long-run educational and labor market outcomes. In this paper we turn our attention to the effects of parental job loss on children's health. We combine health data from 16 waves of the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, which allows us to use a fixed effects specification and still have a large sample of parental job displacements. We find that paternal job loss is detrimental to the physical and mental health of children in low-socioeconomic status (SES) families, increasing their incidence of injuries and mental disorders. We separately find that maternal job loss leads to reductions in the incidence of infectious illness among children in high-SES families, possibly resulting from substitution of maternal care for market-based childcare services. Increases in public health insurance coverage compensate for a large share of the loss in private coverage that follows parental displacement, and we find no significant changes in routine or diagnostic medical care.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21745

Published: just accepted American Journal of Health Economics

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