Three Essays In Health Economics
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This dissertation contains three essays in the field of health economics and health policy. The first essay studies the effects of legalizing medical use of marijuana on marijuana use and other risky health behaviors. I examine the restricted-use data from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), which is a repeated cross sectional data set with state identifiers from 2004 to 2012. During this period, 9 states and Washington D.C. allowed patients with medical conditions to use marijuana. I estimate difference-in-differences (DID) models to examine the impacts of these policy changes on risky health behaviors. Allowing medical use of marijuana does not lead to higher marijuana use among the overall population and the youth. However, I find that medical marijuana laws (MMLs) are positively and significantly associated with marijuana use among males and heavy pain reliever users. The second essay is a joint work with John Cawley and tests a novel hypothesis: that these health disparities across education are to some extent due to differences in reporting error across education. We use data from the pooled National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) Continuous for 1999-2012, which include both self-reports and objective verification for an extensive set of health behaviors and conditions, including smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. We find that better educated individuals report their health behaviors more accurately. This is true for a wide range of behaviors and conditions, even socially stigmatized ones like smoking and obesity. We show that the differential reporting error across education leads to underestimates of the true health disparities across education that average 19.3%. The third essay is a joint work with Rachel Dunifon and studies how state regulations related to the quality of child care centers-such as teachers' education and degree requirements, staff to child ratios, maximum group size, and unannounced inspection compliance requirement-are predictive of children's health, developmental and cognitive outcomes. State level policies that are related to improving the productivity of child care center teachers by having a higher staff to child ratios and advanced schooling requirement are predictive of child's weight related outcomes and cognitive outcomes.
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