Television, Health, and Happiness (IZA WP, SOEP 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.
Vaccines at Work (IZA WP) - Under Review
(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.
Overcoming Peer Pressure to Drink (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. We conduct a series of 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 pay 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 but not through additional monetary incentives. Through an additional online experiment during the time of Covid-19 restrictions, we find that the response to peer pressure on the demand side is consistent with anticipated pressure provided by the supply side.
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.
Vaccination Demand and Acceptance: Key Behavioral Insights (upon request)
(with Marianna Baggio)
Work in Progress (Selected):
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 the regression discontinuity design by focusing on New Zealand’s national booking system that determines the scarce resource allocation of elective surgeries to citizens in need at thresholds. By investigating the returns to surgery via administrative data, we will be able to make statements about the benefits of costs of differential types of surgeries in the short- and long-run.
Active Peer Pressure
(with Roberto Mosquera and Daniel Stephenson)
Peer pressure can have positive impacts on individuals in many domains. However, while the imitation of observable peer behavior – known as indirect peer pressure – has been studied extensively, direct peer pressure has barely received any attention. We test an economic model of active peer pressure where individuals get rewarded to follow desirable behavior (positive peer pressure) or get punished for following undesirable behavior (negative peer pressure) by their peers. For this purpose, we partner with company to improve our understanding of direct peer pressure on desirable behavior in the field.
(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.
Behavioral Welfare of Health Insurance Coverage
(with Marco Castillo and Ragan Petrie)