Christopher J. Ruhm

Professor of Public Policy and Economics, Frank Batten School of Leadership & Public Policy, University of Virginia
Chapter Member: Virginia SSN
Areas of Expertise:

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About Christopher

Ruhm’s research is focused on the role of government policies in helping parents with young children balance the competing needs of work and family life, and on examining how various aspects of health are produced – including the growth and sources of drug poisoning deaths in the United States, the rise in obesity and relationship between macroeconomic conditions and health.

In the News

Christopher J. Ruhm's research on recessions' affect on public health discussed by Lynne Peeples, "How the Next Recession Could Save Lives," Nature, January 23, 2019.
Christopher J. Ruhm quoted by Ed Cara, "Deaths from Synthetic Opioids Doubled from 2015 to 2016" Gizmodo, March 29, 2018.
Christopher J. Ruhm quoted on parental leave by Claire Cain Miller, "How Mark Zuckerberg's Example Helps Fight Stigma of Family Leave" New York Times, December 2, 2015.
Christopher J. Ruhm quoted on the U.S.’s first paid leave program in California by Bryce Covert, "The Ripple Effects of Mark Zuckerberg's Two-Month Paternity Leave" ThinkProgress, November 23, 2015.
Christopher J. Ruhm's research on the correlation between falling morbidity rates and economic downturns discussed by Kayla Phelps, "Economic Downturns: Bad for Your Wallet, Good for Your Health," Chicago Policy Review, October 29, 2015.
Christopher J. Ruhm quoted on paid leave by Lydia Tomkiw, "Paid-Family-Leave Benefits Explained after Hillary Clinton's Statement at Democratic Debate" International Business Times, October 15, 2015.
Christopher J. Ruhm's research on the impact of economic downturns on health discussed by Jeffrey Sparshott, "How Economic Downturns May Be Good for Your Health," Wall Street Journal, October 9, 2015.
Christopher J. Ruhm's research on mortality in times of economic hardship discussed by Aimee Picchi, "Here's One Upside to an Economic Downturn," CBS Money Watch, October 9, 2015.
Christopher J. Ruhm's research on the correlation between death and paid leave discussed by Sharon Lerner, "The Real War on Families: Why the U.S. Needs Paid Leave Now," In These Times, August 18, 2015.
Guest to discuss paid leave on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Mother's Day, Christopher J. Ruhm, May 10, 2015.
Christopher J. Ruhm quoted on paid leave by Megan Elliot, "The Problems with Maternity Leave in America", March 23, 2015.
Christopher J. Ruhm's research on paid leave in California discussed by Claire Cain Miller, "The Economic Benefits of Paid Leave," New York Times, January 30, 2015.
Christopher J. Ruhm's research on the relationship between economic factors and weight gain discussed by Jeanna Smialek, "The Economy is Making You Fat," Bloomberg Business, January 28, 2015.
Guest to discuss paid leave on PBS News Hour: In U.S., Support for Paid Family Leave but No One to Pay, Christopher J. Ruhm, January 22, 2015.
Christopher J. Ruhm's research on California’s paid leave policy discussed by Claire Suddath, "Can the U.S. Ever Fix Its Messed Up Maternity Leave System," Business Week, January 15, 2015.
Christopher J. Ruhm's research on how a weak economy can lead to a healthier lifestyle discussed by Claire Cain Miller, "How Losing a Job Can be Bad for Your Health," New York Times, December 23, 2014.
Christopher J. Ruhm quoted on a cultural shift regarding paternity leave by Claire Cain Miller, "Paternity Leave: The Rewards and the Remaining Stigma" New York Times, November 7, 2014.


"Recessions, Healthy No More?" Journal of Health Economics 42 (2015): 17-28.

Shows that total mortality has shifted over time from strongly procyclical (rising when the economy strengthens) to being weakly or unrelated to macroeconomic conditions. Argues that deaths from cardiovascular disease and transport accidents continue to be procyclical; however, countercyclical patterns have emerged for fatalities from cancer mortality and external causes, particularly non-transport accidents including poisonings.

"Understanding Overeating and Obesity" Journal of Health Economics 31, no. 6 (2012): 781-796.

Argues that the combination of economic and biological factors is likely to result in overeating in the current environment of cheap and readily available food. Shows this propensity by using a “dual decision” approach where choices reflect the interaction of a “deliberative” system, operating as in standard economic models, and an “affective” system that responds rapidly to stimuli without considering long-term consequences. 

"The Effects of Paid Family Leave in California on Labor Market Outcomes" (with Charles Baum). Journal of Policy Analysis and Management (forthcoming).

Argues that California's Paid Family Leave program raised leave use by almost five weeks for the average covered mother and two to three days for the corresponding father. Argues that rights to paid leave are also associated with higher work and employment probabilities for mothers nine to twelve months after birth.

"The Effects of California’s Paid Family Leave Program on Mothers’ Leave-Taking and Subsequent Labor Market Outcomes" (with Jane Waldfogel and Maya Rossin-Slater). Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 32, no. 2 (2013): 224-245.

Analyzes the effects of California’s paid family leave program and finds that it led to increased leave-taking, particularly among women who had the least access to leave previously.

"Paid Family Leave, Fathers' Leave-Taking, and Leave-Sharing in Dual-Earner Households," (with Jane Waldfogel, Ann Bartel, Maya Rossin-Slater, and Jenna Stearns ), National Bureau of Economic Research, November 2015.

Argues that fathers in California are 46 percent (relative to the pre-treatment mean) more likely to take leave in the first year of their children’s lives when that leave is available - but these effects are much larger for fathers of sons than for fathers of daughters, and almost entirely driven by fathers of first-born children and fathers in occupations with a high share of female workers.

"Time Out With Baby: The Case for Paid Parental Leave," (with Edward Zigler and Susan Muenchow), Washington DC: Zero to Three, 2012.

Summarizes the psychological and economic rationales for paid leave policies and make specific proposals for how such policies could be implemented in the United States.