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The Economics of Grief


  • We thank the Editor Kjell Salvanes, two anonymous referees, Sandra Black, Anna Sjögren, Peter Nilsson, Marcel Einerhand as well as seminar participants at SFI Copenhagen and IFAU Uppsala and participants at EALE and NKN conferences for very useful suggestions. Most of this work was carried out while Gerard van den Berg was at the University of Mannheim. He thanks the Humboldt Foundation for support. Thanks to Eva Mörk, Anna Sjögren and Helena Svaleryd for sharing their data with us.


We study the short-run and long-run economic impact of one of the largest losses that an individual can face; the death of a child. We utilise unique registers on the entire Swedish population, combining information on the date and cause of death with parental outcomes. We exploit the longitudinal dimension of the data and deal with several selection issues. Losing a child has adverse effects on labour income, employment status, marital status and hospitalisation. The value of policy measures aimed at preventing mortal accidents of children is underestimated if it does not take bereavement effects on parents into account.