A Complete Guide to Life, Death and Misadventure
Edited by Simon W. Bowmaker
Chapter 8: Economics of suicide
8 Economics of suicide Samuel Cameron Résumé Razors pain you; Rivers are damp; Acids stain you; And drugs cause cramp; Guns aren’t lawful; Nooses give; Gas smells awful; You might as well live. Dorothy Parker (1863–1967) Suicide is not a regular part of the diet of the trainee economist. It is not found in the typical microeconomics textbook so many professional economists remain unaware of the topic, ‘economics of suicide’. This chapter sets out to show that it does indeed exist and why we should be interested. There are three major factors in the ﬁeld that might stimulate an economist to participate. First, microeconomic theory is founded on a rational choice model that might ﬁnd the phenomenon of suicide to be an interesting challenge. Second, the marked patterns to be found in the statistics of suicide present a topic for the application of the formidable arsenal of econometric techniques. For example, sociological pioneers in the subject had noticed some degree of correlation of suicide rates with the business cycle. Third, the tools of standard microeconomic theory may also be informative in looking at policy measures toward suicide. The chapter proceeds as follows. Section 1 begins with a brief historical overview of the study of suicide, with particular focus upon Emile Durkheim’s socio-economic contribution. Next, Section 2 presents some international statistics on suicide. We show the variation in rates of suicide between countries, among diﬀerent age groups and gender, as well as how these trends have changed over...
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