Puffing in Hard Times: Does the Financial Crisis Have a Role on Smoking Prevalence in the U.S.?

Raya Muttarak, Vienna Institute of Demography
Silvano Gallus, Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research
Simone Ghislandi, Università Bocconi

We reassess the procyclical argument on smoking prevalence during economic downturns exploiting the exogenous shock given by the 2008 financial crisis, which caused a sharp increase in unemployment rate in 2009 in the US. We estimate a series of logit models predicting the probability of smoking using the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System for the years 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, covering a representative sample of the US adult population with a total of 1.6 million respondents. The state-level unemployment rate is used as an indicator of economic conditions. Comparing 2009-2010 vs. 2006-2007 periods, we find no significant relation between the change in state unemployment rate and the change in state smoking prevalence for the whole population, after adjusting for state variation and individual characteristics. A further subsample analysis shows a positive relation between smoking and state-level crisis intensity for students and a negative relation for employed individuals and subjects with high labor market attachments.

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Presented in Session 208: Economic Contractions and Health Behaviors