Health economics

Seema Jayachandran, Rohini Pande, 05 May 2015

Indian children are more likely to be malnourished than their counterparts in Sub-Saharan Africa, despite higher standards of living. This column uses data on child height – an anthropometric measure of net nutrition – from Africa and India to explore how parental gender preferences affect the likelihood of children being malnourished. Indian firstborn sons are found to have a height advantage over African firstborn sons, and the height disadvantage appears first in second-born children, increasing for subsequent births. This suggests that a preference for a healthy male heir influences fertility decisions and how parents allocate resources between their children.

Dora L. Costa, Matthew E. Kahn, 27 April 2015

Newspapers report good and bad news, but the reporting doesn’t always match reality. This column presents evidence from turn-of-the-century America that news reports of typhoid tracked mortality patterns, but the reporting was biased. Spikes in death rates led to bigger jumps in media coverage when death rates were low. This could be due to the idea that deviations from Kahneman and Tversky’s ‘reference points’ are more newsworthy, or due to the possibility that bad news is more valuable to readers when things seem to be going well.

Rena M. Conti, Ernst Berndt, David H. Howard, 25 March 2015

Total US prescription drug spending rose 13% in 2014, the biggest increase in a decade. Driving this trend is spending on branded specialty drugs, which rose an unprecedented 31%. This column discusses recent research into the relationship between inflation-adjusted launch prices and survival benefits and approval year for 58 anticancer drugs approved in the US between 1995 and 2013. The authors find that launch prices are going up by $8,500 per year, approximately 12% year over year.

Charles Courtemanche, 08 March 2015

One important component of Obamacare – a dependent coverage provision for young people – took effect in 2010. It allowed dependents to remain on parents’ insurance coverage until age of 26. This column discusses the impact of this coverage on a number of outcomes. The results indicate that provision improved young adults’ health care access, did not influence preventive care utilisation, had mixed effects on health behaviours, and improved some but not all dimensions of self-assessed health.

Alejandro del Valle, 04 February 2015

Illness shocks can decimate the economic opportunities of the poor. Women’s employment opportunities are particularly constrained by illness because their time is often diverted to the care of sick children.  This column argues that the provision of publicly subsidised health insurance in Mexico has led to an increase in labour supply. This increase has occurred in part because insurance has enabled women to reallocate time away from caregiving tasks to work in the labour market. These findings suggest that health insurance does more than improve health: it also empowers women. 

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