Essays in Behavioral and Health Economics

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This dissertation consists of three chapters. The first two chapters provide empirical evidence of hot-hand bias in two novel field settings: dart players' strategic choices, and physicians' decisions during childbirth. The “hot hand” refers to the notion that a person can enter a state in which her probability of success becomes higher than normal. Regardless of whether the person actually has a hot hand, the “hot-hand bias” is when the person has an exaggerated belief about the hot hand. In Chapter 1, I collect data of professional dart players from the 2016 World Darts Championship. I find that players are significantly more likely to hit after a successful shot, implying that players have a hot hand. Based on a precise estimate of the hot hand, I calculate the optimal strategy of a profit-maximizing dart player. I find that dart players are much more willing to take risks after a successful shot than what I calculate to be optimal, consistent with hot-hand bias. In Chapter 2, I utilize 1.3 million hospital admissions for childbirth in New York State over 2010-2015. I find no evidence that physicians have a hot hand when performing obstetrical procedures. In the absence of hot hand, physicians are still 2% more likely to perform a C-section after a previous successful C-section. My empirical model includes physician fixed effects and a large set of patient conditions that proxy for when a C-section is likely to maximize patient welfare. Robustness checks provide additional evidence consistent with decision-makers having hot-hand bias. Assuming that the identified 2% increase in the C-section rate is unwarranted, the estimated health-care cost is $65 million per year in the US. Chapter 3 is joint work with Nicolas Ziebarth. We investigate the relationship between sleep and health using a census of 160 million hospital admissions from Germany and 3.4 million survey responses from the US over one decade. We exploit the exogenous extension of sleep when daylight saving time ends: setting clocks back by one hour in the fall significantly extends night's sleep and reduces self-reported tiredness for four days following the time shift. In turn, we find that self-reported health improves and hospital admissions decrease significantly for about four days.

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Kenkel, Donald S.
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Benjamin, Daniel
Homonoff, Tatiana A.
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Ph. D., Economics
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Doctor of Philosophy
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