Drivers of the Fatal Drug Epidemic—CPRC Seminar

October 18, 2018 12:00 pm - October 21, 2018 1:00 pm

Sponsored by the Columbia Population Research Center



Death rates for middle-aged white Americans without a college degree rose significantly between 1999 and 2015. In a research paper released in 2017, Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton claimed the increase was due to rising deaths from drug overdoses and suicide—what they called deaths of despair. As Columbia University statistician Andrew Gelman noted immediately on his blog, the notion of “deaths of despair” reinforced the narrative already in the news media about the economic suffering of America’s white working class in places like the Rust Belt and Appalachia. Since then, moreover, University of Virginia economist Christopher Ruhm (bio) has collected evidence that disputes Case and Deaton’s claim. As Ruhm will explain at this seminar, he tracked fatal overdoses at the county level across the country and compared those rates with economic factors like labor market conditions, income levels, housing prices and international trade exposure in each county. According to his findings—released earlier this year in a working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research—mortality is rising due to the increased availability of inexpensive, highly addictive opioids, and their over-prescription, not to factors like unemployment and income. In fact, worsening economic conditions account for less than 10 percent of the rise in mortality.

NOTE: The registration link on this page is for livestream only. To register for in-person attendance, click here.

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