Health effects of unemployment benefit program generosity

Am J Public Health. 2015 Feb;105(2):317-23. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2014.302253.


Objectives: We assessed the impact of unemployment benefit programs on the health of the unemployed.

Methods: We linked US state law data on maximum allowable unemployment benefit levels between 1985 and 2008 to individual self-rated health for heads of households in the Panel Study of Income Dynamics and implemented state and year fixed-effect models.

Results: Unemployment was associated with increased risk of reporting poor health among men in both linear probability (b=0.0794; 95% confidence interval [CI]=0.0623, 0.0965) and logistic models (odds ratio=2.777; 95% CI=2.294, 3.362), but this effect is lower when the generosity of state unemployment benefits is high (b for interaction between unemployment and benefits=-0.124; 95% CI=-0.197, -0.0523). A 63% increase in benefits completely offsets the impact of unemployment on self-reported health.

Conclusions: Results suggest that unemployment benefits may significantly alleviate the adverse health effects of unemployment among men.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Income / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Public Assistance / economics
  • Public Assistance / statistics & numerical data*
  • Unemployment / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States / epidemiology