DP17137 Substance Abuse during the Pandemic: Implications for Labor-Force Participation

Author(s): Jeremy Greenwood, Nezih Guner, Karen A. Kopecky
Publication Date: March 2022
Date Revised: April 2022
Keyword(s): Covid-19 pandemic, Labor-Force Participation, Substance Abuse
JEL(s): I12, J11, J21
Programme Areas: Labour Economics, Macroeconomics and Growth
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=17137

The labor-force participation rates of prime-age U.S. workers dropped in March 2020---the start of the COVID-19 pandemic---and have still not fully recovered. At the same time, substance-abuse deaths were elevated during the pandemic relative to trend indicating an increase in the number of substance abusers, and abusers of opioids and crystal methamphetamine have lower labor-force participation rates than non-abusers. Could increased substance abuse during the pandemic be a factor contributing to the fall in labor-force participation? Estimates of the number of additional substance abusers during the pandemic presented here suggest that increased substance abuse accounts for between 9 and 26 percent of the decline in prime-age labor-force participation between February 2020 and June 2021.