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The Great Recession and Children’s Mental Health in Australia

School of Economics, Level 5, Social Sciences Building, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
ARC Centre of Excellence for Families and Children over the Life Course, University of Queensland, Level 2, Cycad Building (1018), 80 Meiers Rd, Indooroophilly, QLD 4068, Australia
Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), Schaumburg-Lippe-Straße 5-9, 53113 Bonn, Germany
Telethon Kids Institute, Northern Entrance, Perth Children’s Hospital, 15 Hospital Ave, Nedlands, WA 6009, Australia
Centre for Child Health Research, University of Western Australia, Nedlands, WA 6009, Australia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(4), 537;
Received: 12 December 2018 / Revised: 30 January 2019 / Accepted: 11 February 2019 / Published: 13 February 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Recent Advances of Adolescents and Children Health Research)
PDF [701 KB, uploaded 13 February 2019]


This paper analyzes the effects of “shocks” to community-level unemployment expectations, induced by the onset of the Great Recession, on children’s mental well-being. The Australian experience of the Great Recession represents a unique case study as despite little change in actual unemployment rates, levels of economic uncertainty grew. This affords us the ability to examine the effects of shocks to economic expectations independent of any actual changes to economic conditions. We draw on and link data from multiple sources, including several waves of the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (2004–2010), a consumer sentiment survey, and data on local economic conditions. Using our purpose-built data set, we estimate difference-in-differences models to identify plausibly causal effects. We find, for boys, there is no detectable effect of community-level unemployment expectations shocks on mental health. For girls, however, there are modest increases in mental health problems and externalizing behaviors, as measured by the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). We additionally find no discernible change in mother’s psychological distress as a result of expectations shocks. These results are stable after controlling for actual labor market conditions. View Full-Text
Keywords: mental health; children; economic recession; macroeconomic; consumer sentiment; Australia; longitudinal studies mental health; children; economic recession; macroeconomic; consumer sentiment; Australia; longitudinal studies

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Bubonya, M.; Cobb-Clark, D.A.; Christensen, D.; Johnson, S.E.; Zubrick, S.R. The Great Recession and Children’s Mental Health in Australia. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16, 537.

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