Social Indicators Research

, Volume 90, Issue 2, pp 195–209 | Cite as

Public Policies and Suicide Rates in the American States

  • Patrick Flavin
  • Benjamin Radcliff


We are interested in the relationship between public policies and outcomes measuring quality of life. There is no outcome more final than the ending of one’s own life. Accordingly, we test the relationship between public policy regimes and suicide rates in the American states. Controlling for other relevant factors (most notably a state’s stock of social capital), we find that states with higher per capita public assistance expenditures tend to have lower suicide rates. This relationship is of significant magnitude when translated into potential lives saved each year. We also find that general state policy liberalism and the governing ideologies of state governments are linked to suicide rates. In response to a growing literature on the importance of non-political factors such as social connectedness in determining quality of life, these findings demonstrate that government policies remain important determinates as well.


Public policy Social capital Suicide American state politics Welfare spending 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of Notre DameNotre DameUSA

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