Panel Paper: Recessionary Events and Their Relationship to Health: Evidence From the Michigan Recession and Recovery Study

Saturday, November 9, 2013 : 8:00 AM
DuPont (Westin Georgetown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Kristin Seefeldt, Sarah Burgard and Lucie Kalousova, University of Michigan

Many Americans experienced unemployment, financial strain, housing instability, and other difficulties in the Great Recession of 2007-2009. In this study, we explore whether and in what ways individuals experienced multiple negative events across these domains and whether these events and clusters of events were associated with changes in well-being. Past studies have not focused on the ways negative experiences may span multiple domains, an important limitation because of the possibility that chains of events- such as a job loss, subsequent unemployment, resultant financial strain, and difficulty maintaining housing-, all may lead to poorer mental health. Prior research has examined associations between these exposures and health but primarily by examining the effects of a singular event (e.g., unemployment and health outcomes, or the health of persons who have been evicted). Such studies may underestimate the consequences of recessions by focusing on a single domain or single type of hardship that is embedded within a broader sphere of problems. Alternatively, negative changes in health may have been attributed to one experience, such as a job loss, when only those who later experience serious financial problems are affected. It is also possible that individuals in poor health prior to the recession were the ones most likely to experience hardships and spillovers across multiple domains, such that health selection has played an under-recognized role.

We use novel data from the Michigan Recession and Recovery Study (MRRS) to explore how and for whom recent difficulties in 2009 through 2011 spanned domains of employment and material hardship (financial problems, housing problems, food insecurity, and foregone medical care). We also explore how the clustering of hardship was associated with changes in mental health (i.e., depressive symptomatology), physical health (i.e., chronic conditions and their debilitating symptoms), and health behaviors thought to respond to macroeconomic downturns (i.e., alcohol used). The MRRS is a stratified random sample of English-speaking, working-aged adults living in Southeastern Michigan at the close of the Great Recession. Wave 1 (late 2009 - early 2010) included 914 respondents, and wave 2 (spring/summer 2011) had a response rate of 94%. We use several data reduction techniques to examine the joint distributions of hardships to assess the ways experiences cluster and the extent to which more clustering represents long-term socioeconomic disadvantage or earlier health. We then explore how these broader patterns of exposure are associated with changes in well-being over follow-up. We are also exploring “fuzzy set” qualitative comparative analysis to uncover meaningful profiles. This method uses Boolean methods of logical comparison to represent each case (here, each respondent) as a combination of causal and outcome conditions. These combinations can be compared with each other and logically simplified through a process of paired comparison.

Some of these negative events, in particular those in certain clusters, are likely to have effects that may take time to unfold. This paper will contribute to the literature on the longer run health effects of recessions and inform policymakers about interventions that may be needed to support individuals who experienced such events.