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Crises and mortality: Does the level of unemployment matter?

Laliotis, Ioannis and Stavropoulou, Charitini (2017): Crises and mortality: Does the level of unemployment matter?

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We study whether mortality responds non-linearly and asymmetrically to unemployment in the context of national economic crises. Although both the assumption of linearity and symmetry have been challenged in other domains, this has been hitherto neglected in the mortality-unemployment literature. Greece offers an ideal setting to our study as unemployment had been moderately falling for about a decade till mid-2008 when it sharply and suddenly increased as a result of a severe economic crisis. Contrary to previous literature, our results from regional panel data estimates (1999q1-2013q4) indicate a countercyclical behaviour of total mortality and a further deteriorating crisis effect. We provide robust evidence that mortality is both non-linear and asymmetric, which suggests that the effect on the number of deaths changes for very high values of unemployment and depends on its direction. Both non-linearity and asymmetry are driven by those above 65 years old. Our findings have important methodological implications and suggest that empirical investigations on fluctuations, recessions and mortality should consider possible non-linear and asymmetric behaviours.

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