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Killer Debt: The Impact of Debt on Mortality
This study analyzes the effect of individual finances (specifically creditworthiness and severely delinquent debt) on mortality risk. A large (approximately 170,000 individuals) subsample of a quarterly panel data set of individual credit reports is utilized in an instrumental variables design. The possibility of the reverse causality of bad health causing debt and death is removed by instrumenting for individual finances post 2011 using the exposure to the housing crisis based on their 2005 residence. Worsening creditworthiness and increases in severely delinquent debt are found to lead to increases in individual mortality risk. This result has implications for the benefit of policies such as the social safety net, which aims to protect individual finances, by adding reduced mortality to the benefit of any intervention.
AUTHORS: Argys, Laura; Friedson, Andrew; Pitts, M. Melinda
Do Minimum Wages Really Increase Youth Drinking and Drunk Driving?
Adams, Blackburn, and Cotti (ABC) found that increases in minimum wages were positively related to drunk driving?related traffic fatalities for those ages 16 to 20. The hypothesized mechanism for this relationship?increased alcohol consumption caused by minimum wage?induced income gains?remains empirically unexplored. Using data from two national behavioral surveys and an identification strategy identical to ABC, we find little evidence that an increase in the minimum wage leads to increases in alcohol consumption or drunk driving among teenagers. These results suggest a much smaller set of plausible causal channels to explain ABC's findings.
AUTHORS: Sabia, Joseph J.; Pitts, M. Melinda; Argys, Laura
Losing Public Health Insurance: TennCare Disenrollment and Personal Financial Distress
A main goal of health insurance is to smooth out the financial risk that comes with health shocks and health care. Nevertheless, there has been relatively sparse evidence on how health insurance affects financial outcomes. The few studies that exist focus on the effect of gaining health insurance. This paper explores the effect of losing public health insurance on measures of individual financial well-being. In 2005, the state of Tennessee dropped about 170,000 individuals from Medicaid, resulting in a plausibly exogenous shock to health insurance status. Both across- and within-county variation in the size of the disenrollment is linked with individual-level credit risk score and debt data to identify the effects. The results suggest that the disenrollment resulted in a 1.73 point decline in credit risk scores for the median individual in Tennessee. There is also evidence of increases in the amount and share of delinquent debt (90 days past due or more) and of increases in bankruptcy risk. These findings are mostly concentrated among individuals who were in relatively worse financial status before the disenrollment and suggest that there are significant negative consequences to current recipients that would need to be considered in the cost and benefit calculations around rollbacks of recent Medicaid expansions.
AUTHORS: Argys, Laura; Friedson, Andrew; Pitts, M. Melinda; Tello-Trillo, D. Sebastian