Three Essays In Health Economics

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This dissertation investigates the effects of government programs and policy on health. The first essay estimates the health impacts of the Empowerment Zone (EZ) program-a federal program that gave sizeable grants and tax breaks to certain highpoverty census tracts in selected cities. Using differences-in-differences and synthetic control methods I find that the EZ program decreased fertility rates by 10 percent, decreased the prevalence of low birth weight by 8 percent, and increased overall birth weight by 0.8 percent. This increase in infant health was not driven by changes in the composition of births. I compare the Chicago, New York City, and Philadelphia EZs to a control group of areas which applied for, but were not granted the EZ program in the first round. Estimates using an alternate control group support these findings. Recent research on the later-life impacts of low birth weight suggest that the health impacts of this program may have substantial long-term benefits. The second essay examines the effects of public insurance expansions among children in the 1980s and 1990s on their future educational attainment. We find that expanding health insurance coverage for low-income children increases the rate of high school and college completion. These estimates are robust to only using federal Medicaid expansions, and mostly are due to expansions that occur when the children are not newborns. Our results indicate that the long-run benefits of public health insurance are substantial. In the third essay, we estimate the impact of stress during early adulthood on later-life health. We use the risk of induction into the armed forces from age 18 ½ to 26 during the Vietnam War as a proxy for stress, and obesity and self-reported health as measures of later-life health. We exploit variation in risk of induction based on an individual's birth month and year and therefore the age at which he became eligible for military induction. We find that induction risk is associated with worse health outcomes. Importantly, these effects are present for men but not women, which is consistent with them being the result of stress about military induction rather than unobserved trends.

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Health Economics; Empowerment Zones; Birth Outcomes


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Cawley,John H.

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Kenkel,Donald S.
Lovenheim,Michael F

Degree Discipline

Policy Analysis and Management

Degree Name

Ph. D., Policy Analysis and Management

Degree Level

Doctor of Philosophy

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Government Document




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dissertation or thesis

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