Resilience, suicide, and enrollment in higher education: Three essays on impacts of recession

Danielle E Carriere, Purdue University


This dissertation is comprised of three essays, all of which focus on various impacts of economic recession. The first two essays utilize county-level data to examine differences between rural and urban response to economic downturn, while the final essay makes use of individual-level data to examine the impact of recession on enrollment in higher education. Essay 1: “Response to Economic Shock: Impacts of Rurality and Recession on County-Level Suicide in the United States.” Using a negative binomial model, we examine the effect of recessions on suicides in rural and urban U.S. counties. We include the effects of other economic variables, as well as county demographics, and estimate gender-specific models. We find that, after accounting for differences in population, not only do urban counties have fewer suicides than rural counties, but urban counties experience smaller increases in suicide numbers than rural counties during periods of recession. We also find that long-term economic factors such as high chronic poverty or unemployment have a greater impact on male suicides, while short-term economic crises have a larger impact on female suicides. Higher percentages of children in the county have an increasing effect on male suicides, but a decreasing effect on female suicides. Essay 2: “The Impact of Rurality on the Economic Resilience of U.S. Counties to the Great Recession.” We utilize a simple OLS regression analysis to examine regional patterns in the resilience of U.S. counties to the Great Recession through the use of two measures: resistance (the initial sensitivity of a region to economic shock) and recovery (the extent to which a county or region has resumed its prior employment levels four years after the recession). We find evidence that county-level resistance to and recovery following the Great Recession are correlated with county-level economic dependency as well as state effects. We also find that several variables, such as chronic poverty and the percent of individuals within a county with four or more years of college, are predominantly statistically significant for urban—but not rural—counties and vice versa. Essay 3: “Impacts of the Great Recession on Higher Education Enrollment in the United States.” Through the use of a multinomial logit model, we investigate the impact of demographic and economic factors on the probability of individual enrollment in four-year or two-year institutions. This research extends prior research by examining a wider age range than is typically examined and also by examining differences in enrollment patterns between two key age cohorts:18- to 24-year-olds and 25- to 49-year-olds. We find that that, while an increased unemployment rate is associated with an increased probability of enrolling in either a community college or a four-year institution, an increase in the unemployment rate appears to have a greater effect, in terms of magnitude, on the probability of enrolling in a community college than on the probability of enrolling in a four-year institution. We also find enrollment patterns differ significantly between traditional and non-traditional students.




Marshall, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Educational sociology|Economics|Higher education

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