Health economics

Sandra Aguilar-Gomez, Holt Dwyer, Joshua Graff Zivin, Matthew Neidell, 30 June 2022

A significant body of evidence has established the effects of air pollution on diagnosable health outcomes, ranging from breathing problems and low birth weights to hospitalisations and deaths. But the burden of disease is not the only economic cost arising from poor air quality. This column discusses an emerging body of work that suggests air pollution may have significant effects on day-to-day functioning, economic output, and individual wellbeing in cities around the world, even for people with none of the observable health problems typically attributed to pollution exposure.

Petter Lundborg, Stefan James, Bo Lagerqvist, Johan Vikström, 10 June 2022

Learning-by-doing is believed to be a major source of economic growth, human capital, and comparative advantage, but documenting learning curves has proven difficult since workers are usually not randomly assigned to tasks. This column explores learning-by-doing among Swedish cardiologists, who were quasi-randomly assigned to heart attack patients during night-time shifts. The results provide rare evidence on the existence of prolonged learning curves in a high-skilled task and support the notion that learning-by-doing can be a powerful engine for productivity growth. 

Rainer Kotschy, David Bloom, 25 May 2022

Declining fertility rates and longer life expectancies are producing an ageing global population. This column investigates the challenges that rapidly ageing societies pose to systems of long-term care. To avoid shortages in the workforce, the long-term care industry should endeavour to improve working conditions while also recruiting workers from a larger pool. Investing in disability prevention and rehabilitation are also promising avenues to absorb pressure from growing long-term care needs.

Mevlude Akbulut-Yuksel, 10 May 2022

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has forced millions of Ukrainian children to leave their schools and homes. Such adverse shocks early in life can have profound long-term effects. This column presents evidence from WWII and the Vietnam War of how childhood war exposure had detrimental effects on education, physical and mental health, and labour market outcomes, even decades after the conflicts. The effects were most pronounced for girls and children of lower socioeconomic status. Policies that prioritise children are essential to reduce the enduring effects of war.

Sourafel Girma, David Paton, 29 April 2022

Richard Posner argued that legalising assisted suicide may have the counter-intuitive effect of reducing unassisted and possibly even total suicide rates. This column examines the empirical evidence for this idea using data from ten US states that implemented an assisted suicide law up to the end of 2019. In contrast to Posner’s hypothesis, the real-world data suggest that assisted suicide laws lead to a substantial increase in total suicide rates and, if anything, are associated with an increase even in unassisted suicides. This effect is most pronounced amongst women.

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