Health economics

Margaret Kyle, David Ridley, Su Zhang, 14 December 2017

Governments use various tools to promote scientific research, and the resulting innovations or knowledge can cross borders. This column examines whether governments and organisations adjust their funding of medical research in response to the funding decisions of others. The results suggest an increase in US government funding is associated with a decrease in funding by others. While this evidence is consistent with free riding, qualitative evidence suggests it reflects the optimal reallocation of funds.

Shuai Chen, Jan van Ours, 26 November 2017

A host of empirical studies have found that people in partnerships tend to be happier than those who are single. This column uses panel data from the Netherlands to explore whether there is a causal effect of partnership on subjective wellbeing. The results suggest that both opposite-sex and same-sex marital partnership improves wellbeing, and the benefits of marriage appear to outweigh those of cohabitation.

Anna Chorniy, Janet Currie, Lyudmyla Sonchak, 24 November 2017

Diagnoses of asthma and ADHD among children in the US have increased over recent years. This column argues that one contributor to this increase has been a change in Medicaid from a fee-for-service model to a managed care model. This change created incentives that reward higher diagnosis and prescription rates, while not necessarily improving health outcomes.

Charles Manski, 27 October 2017

In medical treatment, it is assumed that adherence to clinical practice guidelines is always preferable to decentralised clinical decision-making, yet there is no welfare analysis that supports this belief. This column argues that it would be better to treat clinical judgement as a problem of decision-making under uncertainty. In this case there would be no optimal way to make decisions, but there are reasonable ways with well-understood welfare properties.

Ali Palali, Jan van Ours, 30 September 2017

Despite decades-long efforts to deter its consumption, tobacco continues to be one of the world’s biggest health threats. Studies of tobacco control policies show they have had little impact on overall smoking rates. This column assesses the impact of such policies – from bans to advertising controls – on rates of smoking initiation across Europe. Control policies have no significant effect on the age of onset of smoking, and do not seem to discourage young individuals from starting to smoke. To prevent take-up of smoking, policies must address this directly.

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