ISSN: 2056-3736 (Online Version) | 2056-3728 (Print Version)

Unemployment and Suicide in the United States: The Import of Addressing Cross-Sectional Dependence

Mitch Kunce

Correspondence: Mitch Kunce,

DouglasMitchell Econometric Consulting Laramie, WY USA

pdf (390.07 Kb) | doi:


Recent reviews of the sociological and economic-based ecological studies of suicide find cyclical unemployment to be a key suicide risk factor, though the evidence presented is mixed at best. The ambiguity of the ecological associations appear to stem from faulty statistical methodologies. Panel treatments offer advantages over conventional time-series methods by exploiting cross-section variation. However, if the added cross-section units are cointegrating (dependent) and independence is presumed, incorrect statistical inference and inconsistent coefficient estimation can result. Herein, we fully address the import of cross-sectional dependence on the ecological relationship between U.S. unemployment rates and suicide rates using an 81-year panel of the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia. When proper allowances are made for cross-section dependence at each step of the examination, we find no significant statistical association, short-run or long-run, running from unemployment to suicide rates in the U.S. Results of this sequential analysis highlight potential sources of the ambiguity found in the literature.


  Suicide rates, Cointegration, Cross-section dependence.


Bai, J. and Ng, S. (2002). Determining the number of factors in approximate factor models.  Econometrica 70(1), pp. 191-221.Bai, J. and Ng, S. (2004). A PANIC attack on unit roots and cointegration. Econometrica 72(4), pp. 1127-1177.Bai, J. and Ng, S. (2010). Panel unit root tests with cross-section dependence: A further investigation. Econometric Theory 26, pp. 1088–1114.Bailey, N., Kapetanios, G. and Pesaran, M. (2016). Exponent of cross-sectional dependence: estimation and inference.  Journal of Applied Econometrics 31(6), pp. 929-960.Baltagi, B. (2021). Econometric Analysis of Panel Data. Sixth Edition. Chapter 12. Springer: Switzerland.Banerjee, A., and Carrion-i-Silvestre, J.L. (2015). Cointegration in panel data with breaks and cross- section dependence. Journal of Applied Econometrics 30, pp. 1-23.Beck, N. and Katz, J. (1995). What to do (and not to do) with time-series cross-section data. American Political Science Review 89(3), pp. 634-647.Beenstock, M. and Felsenstein, D. (2019). The Econometric Analysis of Non-Stationary Panel Data. Springer: Switzerland.Chang, T. and Chen, W. (2017). Revisiting the relationship between suicide and unemployment: evidence from linear and non-linear cointegration.  Economic Systems 41(2), pp. 266-278.Cheng, K., Durmaz, N., Kim, H. and Stern, M. (2012). Hysteresis vs. the natural rate of US unemployment.  Economic Modeling 29(2), pp. 428-434.Chudik, A. and Pesaran, M. (2015). Common correlated effects estimation of hetergeneous dynamic panel data models with weakly exogenous regressors. Journal of Econometrics 188, pp. 393-420.Curtin, S., Garnett, M. and Ahmad, F.  (2022). Provisional numbers and rates of suicide by month and demographic characteristics: United States, 2021. Vital Statistics Rapid Release Number 24, Report 120830.Curtin, S. and Hedegaard, H.  (2019). Suicide rates for females and males by race and ethnicity: United States, 1999 and 2017.  National Center for Health Statistics, Health E-Stat, June edition.Douglas, J. (1967). The Social Meaning of Suicide.  Princeton, NJ: Princeton University  Press.Durkheim, E. (1897/1951). Suicide.  Translated by Spaulding, J. and Simpson, G.  Glencoe, IL: Free Press.Dickey, D. and Fuller, W. (1979). Distribution of the estimators for autoregressive time-series with a unit root.  Journal of the American Statistical Association 74, pp. 427-431.Dickey, D. and Fuller, W. (1981). Likelihood ratio statistics for autoregressive time series with a unit root.  Econometrica 49, pp. 1057-1072.Engle, R. and Granger, C. (1987). Co-integration and error correction: representation, estimation and testing. Econometrica 55, pp. 251-276.Fedden, H. (1938). Suicide: A Social and Historical Study. London: Peter Davies.Feng, S. and Hu, Y. (2013). Misclassification errors and the underestimation of the U.S. unemployment rate. American Economic Review 103(2), pp. 1054-1070.Granger, C. (1969). Investigating causal relations by econometric models and cross-spectral methods.  Econometrica 37, pp. 424-438.Hamermesh, D. and Soss, N.  (1974). An economic theory of suicide.  Journal of Political Economy 82(1), pp. 83-98.Hatzius, J. and Stehn, S. (2012). Comment on: The ins and outs of forecasting unemployment: using labor force flows to forecast the labor market, by Barnichon, R. and Nekarda, C. Brookings Papers on Economic Activity 45(2), pp. 118-123.Hausman, J. (1978). Specification tests in econometrics. Econometrica 46(6), pp. 1251-1271.Henry, A. and Short, J.  (1954). Suicide and Homicide. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.Holderness, C. (2016). Problems using aggregate data to infer individual behavior: Evidence from law, finance, and ownership concentration. Critical Finance Review 5(1), pp. 1-40.Im, K., Pesaran, M. and Shin, Y. (2003). Testing for unit roots in heterogeneous panels. Journal of Econometrics 115, pp. 53-74.Kao, C. (1999). Spurious regression and residual-based tests for cointegration in panel data. Journal of Econometrics 90, pp. 1–44.Laanani, M., Ghosn, W., Jougla, E. and Rey, G. (2015). Impact of unemployment variations on suicide mortality in Western European countries (2000-2010). Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 69, pp. 103-109.Levin, A., Lin, CF., and Chu, CS. (2002). Unit root tests in panel data: asymptotic and finite - sample properties.  Journal of Econometrics 108(1), pp. 1-24.Lin, Y.H. and Chen, W.Y. (2018). Does unemployment have asymmetric effects on suicide rates? Evidence from the United States: 1928-2013. Economic Research - Ekonomska Istraživanja 31(1). pp. 1404-1417.Milner, A., Page, A. and LaMontague, A. (2014).  Cause and effect in studies on unemployment, mental health and suicide: a meta-analytic and conceptual review. Psychological Medicine 44, pp. 909-917.Newey, W. and West, K. (1987). A simple positive semi-definite heteroscedasticity and autocorrelation consistent covariance matrix.  Econometrica 55, pp. 150-161.O'Connell, P. (1998). The overvaluation of purchasing power parity. Journal of International Economics 44, pp. 1-19.Pedroni, P. (1999). Critical values for cointegration tests in heterogeneous panels with multiple regressors. Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics 61, pp. 653–670.Pedroni, P. (2004). Panel cointegration: asymptotic and finite sample properties of pooled time series tests with an application to the PPP hypothesis. Econometric Theory 20, pp. 597–625.Pesaran, M. (2004). General diagnostic tests for cross section dependence in panels. University of Cambridge Working Papers in Economics No. 0435.Pesaran, M. (2007). A simple panel unit root test in the presence of cross-section dependence. Journal of Applied Econometrics 22, pp. 265-312.Pesaran, M. (2015). Testing weak cross-sectional dependence in large panels. Econometric Reviews 34, pp. 1089-1117.Pesaran, M. and Smith, R. (1995). Estimating long-run relationships from dynamic heterogeneous panels.  Journal of Econometrics 68, pp. 79-113.Pesaran, M., Shin, Y. and Smith, R. (1999). Pooled mean group estimation of dynamic heterogeneous panels. Journal of the American Statistical Association 94(446), pp. 621-634.Phillips, P. (1987). Time series regression with a unit root. Econometrica 55(2), pp 277-301.Phillips, P. and Moon, H. (1999). Linear regression limit theory for nonstationary panel data.  Econometrica 67, pp. 1057-1111.Phillips, P. and Ouliaris, S. (1990). Asymptotic properties of residual based tests for cointegration. Econometrica 58, pp. 165–193.Phillips, P. and Perron, P. (1988). Testing for a unit root in time series regressions. Biometrika 75, pp. 335–346.Stock, J. and Watson, M. (1988). Testing for common trends. Journal of the American Statistical Association 83, pp. 1097-1107.Vandoros, S. and Kawachi, I.  (2021).  Economic uncertainty and suicide in the United States. European Journal of Epidemiology 36, pp. 641-647.Warshauer, M. and Monk, M. (1978). Problems with suicide statistics for whites and blacks.  American Journal of Public Health 68(4), pp. 383-388.Westerlund, J. and Breitung, J. (2013). Lessons from a decade of IPS and LLC. Econometric Review 32, pp. 547-591.