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Economic Conditions and Children’s Mental Health

February 2017

Ezra Golberstein, Gilbert Gonzales, Ellen Meara


Studies involving economic conditions and its effect on children’s health usually ignore mental health. Leaving mental health out of these studies can inaccurately portray the health conditions of children in lower economic classes. The authors use unemployment rates and housing prices from 2001 to 2013 to measure the use of special education services among children in the most volatile of economic situations. They find that as economic conditions deteriorate the metal health of children follows suit. These children do not use special education services for learning disabilities but for emotional problems.

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Policy Implications

When studies leave out a crucial component of children’s health, such as mental health, it makes it harder for policymakers to discern what steps they can take to improve the situation and the lives of these children. It also makes it more difficult for children to achieve the best possible education they can, which will have long-term effects on their lives. This study shows how the implications of poor economic conditions extend beyond labor force participation

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