Protective but non Sheltering: Educational Attainment and Poor Mental Health in the Great Recession

Open Access
Author:
Hernandez, Erik Liet
Graduate Program:
Sociology
Degree:
Master of Arts
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
April 22, 2016
Committee Members:
  • John David Iceland, Thesis Advisor
  • David P Baker, Committee Member
  • Steven Andrew Haas, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • education
  • mental health
  • great recession
  • educational attainment
  • depression
  • NLSY97
Abstract:
The objective of the following thesis is to examine the effect of educational attainment on poor mental health before, during, and after the Great Recession. Higher educational attainment is associated with various mechanisms for improved mental health. Those with greater levels of education are more likely to have more satisfying jobs, larger supports networks, greater access to resources, as well as better coping skills when experiencing negative life events. Prior research has found that in economic downturn, individuals with greater education were protected against negative outcomes, or “sheltered” from the effects of economic downturn. The 2007-2009 Great Recession, however, resulted in widespread job instability and chronic unemployment in the United States, even affecting those with greater socioeconomic status. This paper seeks to reexamine the relationship between educational attainment and poor mental health in regards to the experiences of the Great Recession. Using data from the 2006, 2008, and 2010 National Longitudinal Survey Year 1997 (NLSY97), two questions were discussed. 1) What is the relationship between educational attainment and poor mental health before, during, and after the Great Recession? 2) Did this relationship change across time? Using regression analysis, the findings confirm that educational attainment is negatively associated with poor mental health in all three years. Statistical analysis of the coefficients across years find the relationship between these two variables to remain unchanged. In other words, while the effect of educational attainment on poor mental health was not “sheltering,” its protectiveness remained robust against any effects of the Great Recession.