Abstract

summary:

For over a century, researchers have argued that suicide in the United States fluctuates with business cycles, rising during downturns, when “deaths of despair” skyrocket, and falling during flush periods. Using case-level data from autopsy reports and suicide notes, this essay analyzes suicide trends in New Orleans between 1920 and 1940, an era that included immense prosperity and the Great Depression. Thus, the essay draws from quantitative and qualitative evidence to revisit the leading explanation for suicide patterns. It concludes that only a small segment of the population experienced surges and contractions in response to economic forces. For other New Orleanians, different stressors, relating to class-, race-, and gender-based expectations, shaped suicidal behavior. Firearm availability and public health conditions also influenced suicide patterns. Counterintuitively, suicide rates soared in good times and plummeted in bad times.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3176
Print ISSN
0007-5140
Pages
pp. 53-82
Launched on MUSE
2021-05-04
Open Access
No
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