Health economics

Terence Cheng, Joan Costa-i-Font, Nattavudh Powdthavee, 31 July 2015

Economists have traditionally viewed healthcare as a luxury good – consumption of it will increase more than proportionally as income rises. This column challenges this view, exploiting the windfall of lottery winnings to estimate elasticities for healthcare demand in the UK. Results suggest that income elasticities for public healthcare services are close to zero. A medium to large windfall is found instead to increase the uptake of private health insurance and preventative services. This suggests that rising incomes will increase private sector demand, but will leave public healthcare demand unchanged.

Graziella Bertocchi, Arcangelo Dimico, 30 July 2015

HIV/AIDS is an endemic economic problem for significant parts of Africa. This column presents evidence suggesting that the demographic shock induced by the slave trade still shapes the contemporary family structures and sexual behaviour of many African countries. Policymakers and human rights organisations should understand that the struggle against HIV/AIDS involves the eradication of deeply rooted beliefs and practices.

Leandro Prados de la Escosura, 26 July 2015

How does Latin American well-being compare to the advanced nations? This column presents a new historical index of human development that allows for analyses of trends in Latin American development since 1870. The results unearth a number of puzzles that pit rising income against flagging developments in well-being.

Charles Courtemanche, Josh Pinkston, Christopher J. Ruhm, George L Wehby, 24 July 2015

Obesity is fast becoming a prominent global health issue. This column presents new evidence tentatively suggesting that variables related to the costs of eating – particularly whether there is a big discount warehouse nearby – are leading drivers of the rise in obesity occurring since the early 1980s. These findings should help policymakers work with businesses to find the best solution to tackle obesity.

Howard Bodenhorn, Timothy W. Guinnane, Thomas Mroz, 22 July 2015

Were living standards during early industrialisation as terrible as we imagine? Robert Fogel, the Nobel prize-winning economic historian, taught us a great deal about studying long-term living standards through looking into people’s height. This column argues that one of Fogel’s early claims turns out to have, at best, a weak foundation. The measured decline of mean height during industrialisation reflects in large part the nature of the data sources, not necessarily changes in the height of the underlying populations. The Industrial Revolution did not necessarily make people shorter.

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