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Mortality and UI Benefits During COVID-19 Pandemic

Cashier in supermarket wearing mask and gloves fully protected against corona virus. Working during covid-19 pandemic.

This project examines whether Unemployment Insurance has had a positive impact on the health of workers and affected communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.


During the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a rapid increase in the number of workers filing for Unemployment Insurance (UI). The main strategy to support these workers was to expand who was eligible for UI benefits, lengthen how long people were eligible, and increase the financial amount of benefits provided. Historically, UI benefits have been shown to alleviate financial hardships, improve employment prospects, and provide economic stimulus during economic downturns. However, the expansion of the UI program during the pandemic might have had an additional benefit of reducing the need for individuals to go back to work if they had contracted the virus. This could have slowed the spread of the virus and had a positive impact on the health of workers and communities. Research by CPL and partners that was published in JAMA found that the life expectancy of Californians decreased by about 3 years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the gap in life expectancies between those living in the highest income census tracts and the lowest income census tracts increased, from a difference of about 11 ½ years before the pandemic, to more than 15 years in 2021.

Research Project

The project will describe the differences in mortality patterns in California during the COVID-19 pandemic by workers’ demographics, their occupation – including whether they were considered essential workers – and by neighborhood characteristics. It will also measure the impact of Unemployment Insurance on mortality, and whether the impact varies among workers and neighborhoods.

Research Team

Professor Till von Wachter (Principal Investigator), Dr. Alex Bell, Dr. Shogher Ohannessian, Dr. Geoff Schnorr, Dr. Swapnil Motghare



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