Department Of Obvious: Better Unemployment Benefits = Fewer Suicides
Credit: Cory M. Grenier
June 23, 2014

As I mentioned, a dear friend killed herself a few months ago. She was 60 and although she'd finally gotten another job, it paid even less than her expired unemployment benefits. So yeah, I think this is pretty obvious:

Six months after Congress gave up on providing long-term unemployment benefits to job seekers who have exhausted their state-level unemployment insurance systems, new research shows that less generous unemployment support systems are connected to higher suicide rates.

States that offer higher levels of replacement income for residents who are looking for work but unable to find a job experience significantly lower suicide rates than less generous states, according to a study by two London School of Economics researchers and a University of California San Francisco epidemiologist. Suicide rates have long been known to correlate with economic conditions and the unemployment rate, but the new research finds that higher unemployment insurance payments dull the connection between economic factors and suicide.

The research looked at 40 years of data on unemployment insurance systems in the United States, which are federally funded but administered by the states with varying rules about eligibility and the size of insurance payments to job seekers. “If the unemployment rate increases, having better benefits is going to buffer the effect,” lead author Jonathan Cylus told the Huffington Post, adding that suicide is only the easiest to measure out of the many different negative mental health impacts that being unemployed has on a person. “If there’s a small effect on suicides, there’s probably a substantial effect across the board,” he said.

The mental health benefits of providing a buffer to out-of-work people provide further evidence that such programs are a net benefit for society rather than a net cost. Unemployment insurance has long been understood to provide more economic benefits than what it costs to administer and pay out, and it ranks among the most efficient forms of economic stimulus that the government has at its disposal.

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