Are socioeconomic factors valid determinants of suicide? Controlling for national cultures of suicide with fixed-effects estimation.
Cross-cultural research, 37
National cultures of suicide, that is culturally shared attitudes that are either supportive or restrictive towards the act of committing suicide, have found renewed interest in the recent literature on variation in suicide rates. Fixed effects, our panel data estimation technique, controls more elegantly and comprehensively for national cultures of suicide than other approaches. We use a range of economic and social explanatory variables based on economic as well as Durkheimian sociological theory in fixed-effects and ran-dom-effects estimation of age-standardized suicide rates in a large panel of up to 68 countries over the period 1980 to 1999. We find that economic and social factors impact upon cross-country differences in suicide rates in accordance with theory. Importantly, we find that the fixed-effects estimation results do not differ systematically from the random-effects results. This suggests that the vast majority of the existing literature, which typically fails to control for national cultures of suicide and suggests socio-economic factors as important determinants of suicide, can still be expected to come to valid results.
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