The Impact of Late-Career Job Loss and Genotype on Body Mass Index

Lauren L. Schmitz, Dalton Conley

NBER Working Paper No. 22348
Issued in June 2016
NBER Program(s):Economics of Aging, Health Economics, Labor Studies

This study examines whether the effect of job loss on body mass index (BMI) at older ages is moderated by genotype using twenty years of socio-demographic and genome-wide data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). To avoid any potential confounding we interact layoffs due to a plant or business closure—a plausibly exogenous environmental exposure—with a polygenic risk score for BMI in a regression-adjusted semiparametric differences-in-differences matching framework that compares the BMI of those before and after an involuntary job loss with a control group that has not been laid off. Results indicate genetically-at-risk workers who lost their job before they were eligible for Social Security benefits, or before age 62, were more likely to gain weight. Further analysis reveals heterogeneous treatment effects by demographic, health, and socioeconomic characteristics. In particular, we find high risk individuals who gained weight after a job loss were more likely to be male, in worse health, single, and at the bottom half of the wealth distribution. Across the board, effects are concentrated among high-risk individuals who were not overweight prior to job loss, indicating unemployment at older ages may trigger weight gain in otherwise healthy or normal weight populations.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22348

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