Let’s get down to business: unemployment has been linked to increases in debt, poverty, homelessness, crime, depression, and family breakdown. According to a recent article by Montez and Zajacova, unemployment is also partially responsible for the growing difference in mortality rates of low-educated white women compared to their more highly educated peers.
Between 1997 and 2001, low-educated women 45-86 years old were 1.37 times more likely to die than high-educated women. Compared to mortality data from 2002 to 2006, the gap between groups widened by 21%. To find out why, the authors use complex statistical modeling to investigate the influence of socio-psychological, economic, and health factors on the increasing difference in mortality rates. Along with smoking, unemployment is identified as the factor most strongly linked to this change. The authors speculate that the Internet and the “digital divide” may be playing a larger role in the unemployment of low-educated women, and that the information taught in schools may be becoming more relevant to health.
Having identified unemployment as one of the causes of the growing education gap in mortality, Montez and Zajacova call for social-protection policies geared toward helping low-educated women remain in the workforce. They believe that work-family policies allowing more flexible hours and protected leave will contribute to stemming the divergence. Their hope is that giving women the opportunity to punch the clock will—in the long-run—give them more time to unwind.