Academic journal article Atlantic Economic Journal

Racial/ethnic Differences in the Effects of Psychiatric Disorders on Employment

Academic journal article Atlantic Economic Journal

Racial/ethnic Differences in the Effects of Psychiatric Disorders on Employment

Article excerpt


Recent studies indicate that psychiatric disorders are associated with adverse labor market outcomes including unemployment, reduced labor supply, absenteeism, disability-related work leaves, lower perceived workplace productivity, and reduced earnings (Chatterji et al. 2007; Alexandre and French 2001; Kessler and Frank 1997; Frank and Gertler 1991; Ettner et al. 1997; Berndt et al. 1998; Kouzis and Eaton 1994; Kessler et al. 1999). Frank and Gertler (1991), for example, report that mental distress is associated with a 21% reduction in earnings in their study of men in the Baltimore Epidemiologic Catchment Area (ECA) study. Ettner et al. (1997), using the National Comorbidity Study (NCS), report that meeting diagnostic criteria for a psychiatric disorder in the past 12 months is associated with a reduction of about 11 percentage points in the probability of being employed for both men and women. Chatterji et al. (2007), based on the National Latino and Asian American Study (NLAAS), find that among Latinos, meeting diagnostic criteria for a disorder in the past 12 months reduces the likelihood of employment by about 11 percentage points for males, and by about 22 percentage points for females.

Most prior research on mental disorders and labor market outcomes is based on either geographically narrow samples or on two broader-based data sources--the ECA surveys, which were conducted in five communities during the early 1980s, and the NCS, a national survey conducted during the early 1990s. The ECA surveys and the NCS are large, population-based surveys that include diagnostic interviews for a range of psychiatric illnesses. Notably, the NCS was the first nationally representative survey to include a fully structured research diagnostic interview to measure psychiatric illnesses (NCS 2005). However, there are potential disadvantages to using data from the ECA and NCS to inform current public policy. First, these surveys were conducted with English speaking respondents about 25 and 15 years ago respectively. The sample sizes for ethnic minorities and immigrants in the ECA and NCS are relatively small. Consequently, prior researchers have not been able to examine the relationship between psychiatric disorder and labor market outcomes in racial/ethnic minority populations.

This paper addresses this gap in the literature by using recent, pooled data from the NIMH Collaborative Psychiatric Epidemiological Studies (CPES) to estimate the effects of psychiatric disorders on employment and to test for racial/ethnic differences in these effects. The CPES offers the most recent, national information on mental disorders and correlates of mental disorders. Further, it has the largest samples of racial/ethnic minorities currently available. Our results indicate that mental disorders (particularly affective and anxiety disorders) appreciably dampen the probability of employment among men of all racial/ethnic groups relative to non-Latino whites, with the possible exception of Caribbeans. Among females, the main effects of disorder on employment are much weaker overall. However, we do find large, negative effects for Latinas, and possibly African-Americans, with anxiety disorders.

Effects of Psychiatric Disorders on Labor Market Outcomes in Racial/Ethnic Minority Populations

Racial and ethnic minorities and immigrants are an increasingly large proportion of the US population, and the fastest growing part of the US labor force. In 2005, 33% of the US population was from a racial or ethnic minority. This rate is projected to increase to 39% by 2020. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that by 2050, the percentage of the labor force that is non-Latino white will decline to 53% from 73% in 2000 (Toossi 2002). This change includes increases in the share of the labor force for many minority groups: the Latino share is expected to rise from 11-24%; the African-American share from 12-14%, and the Asian share from 5-11% (Toossi 2002). …

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