MPIDR Working Paper

Downward mobility, unemployment and mortality

Billingsley, S.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2009-015, 27 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (June 2009)
Open Access


This research offers fresh evidence 1) on the contribution of social mobility to health differentials by proposing a new link between downward mobility and health: downward mobility itself may have an immediate impact on health, above and beyond selection, origin or destination effects, and 2) on causes behind the mortality crisis in Russia by testing an innovative operationalization of the negative impact of economic crisis and transition. Specifically, downward mobility as well as unemployment are assessed in this study as possible contributors to increased risk of death from 1994-2005 in Russia. Using RLMS data and Cox proportional hazard models, the results demonstrate that men were at greater risk of mortality when they experienced downward mobility, relative to men who did not. Women’s mortality did not appear to be linked to downward mobility. Both men’s and women’s risk of death substantially increased when experiencing unemployment, relative to low-mid grade workers and relative to non-participation in the labor market. Whereas the impact of downward mobility appears immediate and short-term, the impact of unemployment was longer term and not limited to the year in which unemployment occurred for men. All findings were robust to adjustment of other potentially important factors such as alcohol consumption and health status that preceded downward mobility or unemployment. This robustness suggests that selection effect alone may not be a sufficient explanation for a high risk of death.
Keywords: Russian Federation, health, mortality
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.