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The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy

Editor-in-Chief: Jürges, Hendrik / Ludwig, Sandra

Ed. by Auriol , Emmanuelle / Brunner, Johann / Fleck, Robert / Friebel, Guido / Mendola, Mariapia / Requate, Till / Tsui, Kevin / Wichardt, Philipp / Zulehner, Christine

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All in the Family: Mental Health Spillover Effects between Working Spouses

Jason Fletcher1

1Yale University,

Citation Information: The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy. Volume 9, Issue 1, ISSN (Online) 1935-1682, DOI: 10.2202/1935-1682.1967, February 2009

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Published Online:


It is well documented that mental health outcomes are correlated between spouses. There are several alternative hypotheses for this correlation, including both causal and non-causal pathways. In this paper, I use an instrumental variables/fixed effects approach to examine whether there is evidence that an individual's mental health status spills over on his or her spouse's mental health status. Results from the IV-FE specifications that use spousal job problems as an instrument are large in magnitude. In particular, spousal mental health status is estimated to have a greater influence on an individual's mental health status than his or her own mental health endowment and is similar in magnitude with his or her own physical health status. Although not conclusive, these findings suggest that within-family spillovers of mental illness could be economically important and that policies that reduce mental health problems for individuals likely have unmeasured benefits for their family members.

Keywords: mental health; spousal spillovers; peer effects

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