Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Science in Economics



Major Advisor

Kelly Chen, Ph.D.


Samia Islam, Ph.D.


Lee Parton, Ph.D.


In the last two decades, there has been a downturn in labor force participation. One research approach to explain the downturn is death by despair—a recent topic in economics on pain and preventable deaths caused by alcohol, drugs and suicide. This thesis hopes to add to the death by despair literature by exploring the effect of employment on drug-related mortality through empirical investigation across 17 demographic groups—accounting for age, education, gender, and race—from 2011 to 2018, and covering all 50 US states along with the District of Columbia. Different estimations of population (demographic groups, gender and state total) are used to explore the subtleties for each demographic group. Under the employment-to-population ratios using state total populations and logarithm considerations of employment, empirical results mostly align with existing literature; that is, increases to employment lowers mortality rate. The main approach of this thesis is the use of Bartik shift-share instruments to account for reverse causality of mortality on employment. Through this method, we find that demographic groups respond differently to the national average growth rate versus local growth rates of employment. This thesis aims to contribute to the literature with an example of how the Bartik instrument may be applied to identify differences between local and national employment growth rates and associated mortality.



Included in

Economics Commons