Do Unemployment Benefits Reduce the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease? Exploiting Variations in Changes in Unemployment Benefits across U.S. States

Stefan Walter, Harvard School of Public Health
Maria Glymour, Harvard School of Public Health
Mauricio Avendano Pabon, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and Harvard School of Public Health

Although the association between income and cardiovascular disease (CVD) is well established, it is unclear whether specific income transfer policies reduce cardiovascular disease risk. We exploit the decentralized regulation of unemployment compensation in the United States to investigate whether variations in state specific unemployment benefits are prospectively associated with cardiovascular disease. We used data of 16,390 participants aged 50 – 64 at enrollment from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). We modelled the effect of state-level variation in unemployment benefits on two-year CVD. States with higher benefits had significantly lower CVD incidence (OR 0.86, CI 0.75 – 0.98), but changes in benefits within states did not consistently translate into significant risk reductions (OR 0.91, CI 0.72 – 1.16). Interaction analysis between unemployment benefits and occupational status supported a stronger protective effect of benefits among the unemployed. Overall our findings suggest a limited short-term effect of unemployment benefits on cardiovascular disease.

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Presented in Poster Session 2