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Unemployment Insurance and Physical Activity

Human Capital and Health Behavior

ISBN: 978-1-78635-466-2, eISBN: 978-1-78635-465-5

ISSN: 0731-2199

Publication date: 20 May 2017


Unemployment insurance (UI) reduces the opportunity cost of leisure, but it is unknown whether this additional leisure time is physically active. To obtain unbiased estimates of the effect of UI on physically active leisure participation, I exploit changes in UI program legislation across US states and time. Using nationally representative monthly data between 2003 and 2010 from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), I find evidence that both state UI eligibility expansions and increases in maximum allowable state UI benefits coincide with greater probability of physical activity among the recently unemployed. Based on point estimates, state UI eligibility expansions increased the probability of physical activity participation by 8–10 percentage points among the unemployed with less than a high school education, while a 10% increase in the maximum allowable state UI benefit increased the probability of physical activity by 0.3 to 0.6 percentage points among the unemployed who have completed high school or some college.




This work was supported in part by the European Research Council (Grant 263684). I thank Mauricio Avendano, Alistair McGuire, Grace Lordan, Julian LeGrand, and Eddy van Doorslaer for their helpful feedback on earlier manuscripts. I declare no conflicts of interest.


Cylus, J. (2017), "Unemployment Insurance and Physical Activity", Human Capital and Health Behavior (Advances in Health Economics and Health Services Research, Vol. 25), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 245-277.



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