Nursing homes are chronically understaffed in times of economic prosperity. But…a one percent increase in unemployment sees full time employment in nursing facilities rise three times as fast. After a recession, when the economy picks back up and jobs become available again, low skilled workers abandon nursing homes jobs’ low pay and even fewer accolades for better prospects. The shift of workers in and out of nursing jobs drives the swings in the national death rate and underscores the importance of these under-appreciated jobs.
A look at the relationship between economic downturns and health outcomes in the United States reveals a complex picture: harm from lost insurance and increased anxiety but better care for the elderly. These two trends coexist because, while harm concentrates in working age people, retirees reap the majority of the benefit.