In 2016, Princeton economist Alan Krueger made headlines with a shocking finding that nearly half of prime age men (or men ages 25 to 54) who are not in the labor force take pain medication on a daily basis. Two-thirds of those men—or about 2 million—take prescription pain medication on a daily basis.
This fall, Krueger has published a follow-up to that research, taking an even closer look at the labor force implications of the opioid epidemic on a local and national level. The new paper and data, published in the Fall 2017 edition of the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, makes a strong case for looking at the opioid epidemic as one driver of declining labor force participation rates.
In fact, Krueger suggests that the increase in opioid prescriptions from 1999 to 2015 could account for about 20 percent of the observed decline in men’s labor force participation during that same period, and 25 percent of the observed decline in women’s labor force participation.