Job Market Paper:
Vaccines at Work (IZA WP) - submitted
(with Roberto Mosquera and Adrian Chadi)
Influenza imposes substantial costs in terms of human lives and productivity losses. Vaccination could be a cost-effective way to reduce these costs, but low take-up rates, particularly of working adults, and vaccination unintentionally causing moral hazard may decrease its benefits. We ran a natural field experiment with employees of a large bank in Ecuador where we experimentally manipulated incentives to participate in a flu vaccination campaign. We find that reducing opportunity costs of vaccination doubled take-up. Coworker peer take-up also increased individual take-up significantly. Contrary to the company's expectations, the effect of vaccination on health outcomes was ineffective with no measurable health externalities. Using administrative records on sickness diagnoses and employee surveys, we find evidence consistent with vaccination causing moral hazard, which could decrease its effectiveness.
The Unintended Consequences of Health Insurance (WP)
The purchase of private health insurance is clearly beneficial in the absence of public insurance. However, it is difficult to evaluate individual costs and benefits when baseline coverage exists for everyone. I study the consequences of being privately insured in a world where universal health care is the baseline. The problem of selection is approached through a regression kink design in conjunction with a policy implemented in Australia in the year 2000 which punishes agents for delaying the purchase of private health to later in life. By investigating the benefits with an administrative tax panel, this study reveals potential hidden costs and unintended consequences of private health insurance under universal health care.
Television, Health, and Happiness (WP)
(with Adrian Chadi)
Watching television is the most time-consuming human activity besides work but its role for individual well-being is unclear. Negative consequences portrayed in the literature raise the question whether this popular activity constitutes an economic good or bad and is a prime example of irrational behavior reducing individual health and happiness. We are the first to comprehensively address this question by exploiting a large-scale natural experiment in West Germany, where households in a few geographically restricted areas received commercial television via terrestrial frequencies. Rich panel data allow us to determine how signal availability over time changes individual time use and well-being. Contrary to previous research, we find no health impact when television consumption increases. For life satisfaction, we even find positive effects. Additional data supports the notion that television is not an economic bad and that non-experimental evidence may be driven by negative selection.
Work in Progress (Selected):
Overcoming Peer Pressure to Drink (WP upon request)
(with Bernd Leisen and Vanessa Mertins)
Excessive alcohol consumption imposes large costs to society and individuals often feel pressured by their peers to drink. Guided by theory, we conduct field experiments with endogenously formed peer groups. We measure the willingness to abstain from drinking and we randomly provide feedback to peers about their alcohol levels, and by paying bonuses to drink below their peers. We find that peer pressure to drink is high with an average willingness to abstain for an hour by €29.47. Highly intoxicated individuals lower their drinking levels through feedback and monetary incentives. During an additional online experiment under Covid-19 restrictions, we leverage passive peer pressure by inducing active peer pressure to reduce alcohol consumption of heavy drinkers.
(with Noah Bacine and Irene Mussio)
Patriarchal societies can inhibit health investments for females because of a lack of self-determination. This may cause gender-disparities in health such as lower female vaccination coverage during childhood. We intent to counteract the imbalance in household decision-making by targeting gender-based behavioral traits of fathers. Research has shown that males exhibit exaggerated competitive preferences. We harness this behavior to encourage fathers to get their children vaccinated. We introduce a campaign leveraging competitive incentives to increase vaccination coverage for children, especially girls. Our hope is to create a scalable campaign that improves overall childhood vaccination rates and reduces child mortality.
The Returns to Elective Surgery
(with Luke Chu)
Elective surgery is becoming increasingly common due to the trend of an overall aging society. The impact from elective surgery is unclear and undertreatment as well as overtreatment could be a problem. Due to the infeasibility of randomization, only association studies exist for which the direction of the bias is unknown. We study the returns from elective surgery using causal inference methods to obtain unbiased estimates by focusing on New Zealand’s national booking system that determines the allocation of the scarce resource of elective surgery to citizens in need. By investigating the returns to surgery, we will be able to make statements about the benefits of costs of differential types of surgeries in the short- and long-run.
Behavioral Welfare of Health Insurance Coverage
(with Marco Castillo and Ragan Petrie)
Active Peer Pressure
(with Roberto Mosquera and Daniel Stephenson)