Can Economic Policies Reduce Deaths of Despair?

79 Pages Posted: 2 May 2019 Last revised: 18 Dec 2021

See all articles by William Dow

William Dow

University of California, Berkeley - School of Public Health

Anna Godøy

University of California, Berkeley - Institute for Research on Labor and Employment

Christopher Lowenstein

University of California, Berkeley

Michael Reich

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Economics

Date Written: April 2019

Abstract

Do minimum wages and the EITC mitigate rising “deaths of despair?” We leverage state variation in these policies over time to estimate event study and difference-in-differences models of deaths due to drug overdose, suicide, and alcohol-related causes. Our causal models find no significant effects on drug or alcohol-related mortality, but do find significant reductions in non-drug suicides. A 10 percent minimum wage increase reduces non-drug suicides among low-educated adults by 2.7 percent; the comparable EITC figure is 3.0 percent. Placebo tests and event-study models support our causal research design. Increasing both policies by 10 percent would likely prevent a combined total of more than 700 suicides each year.

Suggested Citation

Dow, William and Godøy, Anna and Lowenstein, Christopher and Reich, Michael, Can Economic Policies Reduce Deaths of Despair? (April 2019). NBER Working Paper No. w25787, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3380819

William Dow (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - School of Public Health ( email )

50 University Hall #7360
Berkeley, CA 94720-7360
United States

Anna Godøy

University of California, Berkeley - Institute for Research on Labor and Employment ( email )

2521 Channing Way #5555
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Christopher Lowenstein

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

310 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Michael Reich

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Economics ( email )

549 Evans Hall #3880
Berkeley, CA 94720-3880
United States
510-643-7079 (Phone)
510-642-6432 (Fax)

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