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The Elasticity of Mortality with Respect to Recession

Summary:
I hear a lot about deaths rising with recessions. What does the data indicate about the robustness of such a relationship? Below is a plot of the deaths/population ratio, in logs. Figure 1: Log ratio of deaths to population. NBER defined recession dates shaded gray. Source: CDC, Census via FRED, NBER, and author’s calculations. Estimating a log-log regression of deaths on population, 1999-2018, one finds that the semi-elasticity of deaths with respect to recession is -1.5%, although it is not statistically significantly different from zero. Interestingly, augmenting the regression with a “Trump dummy” leads to a Trump effect of 6.4% (statistically significantly different from zero at the .01%).

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I hear a lot about deaths rising with recessions. What does the data indicate about the robustness of such a relationship?

Below is a plot of the deaths/population ratio, in logs.

The Elasticity of Mortality with Respect to Recession

Figure 1: Log ratio of deaths to population. NBER defined recession dates shaded gray. Source: CDC, Census via FRED, NBER, and author’s calculations.

Estimating a log-log regression of deaths on population, 1999-2018, one finds that the semi-elasticity of deaths with respect to recession is -1.5%, although it is not statistically significantly different from zero.

The Elasticity of Mortality with Respect to Recession

Interestingly, augmenting the regression with a “Trump dummy” leads to a Trump effect of 6.4% (statistically significantly different from zero at the .01%).

Menzie Chinn
He is Professor of Public Affairs and Economics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison

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