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Recessionary Events and their Relationship to Health: Evidence from the Michigan Recession and Recovery Study

Awarded Scholars

Sarah Burgard, University of Michigan
Kristin Seefeldt, Indiana University
Project Date: June, 2011
Award Amount:$72,583

The Great Recession has had a significant and largely negative impact on Americans and their families in a variety of ways. Millions of Americans have experienced the loss of their homes through foreclosure. Significant numbers are behind on rent or mortgage payments, or are “underwater,” paying on homes that are worth less than is owed. More than 14 million Americans are still without work, another 11.3 million are underemployed, and 6.3 million have been unemployed for more than six months.

A main question about the recession then is not simply who is it that experiences job loss, but who is that experiences job loss and foreclosure? Who experiences not only unemployment and home loss, but also has to deal with multiple spells of unemployment? It is a given that many of these effects are concentrated among specific segments of the population, but it is unknown how frequently these events might occur concurrently for different individuals and groups. And, when people experience such clusters of negative life events, what is the cumulative impact of those events on health outcomes?

Using the Michigan Recession and Recovery Study (MRSS), Sarah Burgard of the University of Michigan and Kirstin Seefeldt of Indiana University will tackle these questions in their study of recession effects and health outcomes. Three main questions underlie their project. What kinds of recessionary events did survey respondents experience, and how often? Secondly, how are these different events best characterized in terms of their occurrence? Are individuals experiencing multiple spells of unemployment? Are they experiencing negative events that span multiple domains? Finally, Burgard and Seefeldt ask whether or not negative events or clusters of events are related to aspects of health and mental health. Results will be published in journal articles as well as policy briefs that will be posted on the website of the University of Michigan’s National Poverty Center.