Working Papers

Funding of Clinical Trials and Reported Drug Efficacy, revise and resubmit, Journal of Political Economy

Abstract: This paper estimates the effect of financial sponsorship of clinical trials on reported drug efficacy, leveraging the insight that the exact same sets of drugs are often compared in different randomized control trials conducted by parties with different financial interests. I use newly assembled data on psychiatric clinical trials to estimate that a drug appears substantially more effective when the trial is sponsored by that drug's manufacturer, compared with the same drug in the same set of drugs but without the drug manufacturer's involvement. This difference is not explained by observable characteristics of trial design. Publication bias is a key mechanism and pre-registration requirements may be effective in overcoming sponsorship bias.

Deaths of Despair and the Decline of American Religion (with Daniel Hungerman and Tyler Giles), NBER Working Paper #30840, submitted

Abstract: In recent decades, death rates from poisonings, suicides, and alcoholic liver disease have dramatically increased in the United States.  We show that these “deaths of despair” began to increase relative to trend in the early 1990s, that this increase was preceded by a decline in religious participation, and that both trends were driven by middle-aged white Americans. Using repeals of blue laws as an exogenous shock to religiosity, we confirm that religious practice has significant effects on these mortality rates.  Our findings show that social factors such as organized religion can play an important role in understanding deaths of despair.

Press: The Economist, Brookings, The Atlantic, Market Watch, Washington Examiner, Daily Mail, Star Tribune

Selected Work in Progress

The Effect of Insurance on Disparities in Trial Enrollment  (with Jennifer Kao)

Research Question: How does expanding insurance coverage of clinical trials affect racial, gender, and age-based disparities in trial enrollment?

The Incidence of Individual Health Cost Shocks (with Jonathan Holmes and Kurt Lavetti)

Abstract: Real wages have stagnated in recent decades, and a potential cause is rising health costs combined with employer-sponsored health insurance. In this paper, we use linked all-payer claims and earnings data to examine how health cost shocks affect the wages of affected individuals. We also study effects on coworker wages, job separations, and how these outcomes vary by socio-economic factors.  Our empirical strategy is a triple difference-in-difference, comparing workers before and after a productivity-neutral health cost shock, compared to coworkers without cost shocks, at firms that do or do not pay for employee health insurance. An example of a health cost shock we use is PrEP medication take-up, which costs about 20 thousand dollars per year and arguably has limited effects on worker productivity. Our preliminary results find little pass-through of health costs into wages, in contrast with earlier work on maternal leave benefits. 


Screening and Selection: The Case of Mammograms (with Liran EinavAmy Finkelstein, Abigail Ostriker, and Heidi Williams), American Economic Review, 110(12), December 2020: 3836-3870.

Abstract: We analyze selection into screening in the context of recommendations that breast cancer screening start at age 40. Combining medical claims with a clinical oncology model, we document that compliers with the recommendation are less likely to have cancer than younger women who select into screening or women who never screen. We show this selection is quantitatively important: shifting the recommendation from age 40 to 45 results in three times as many deaths if compliers were randomly selected than under the estimated patterns of selection. The results highlight the importance of considering characteristics of compliers when making and designing recommendations. 

Press: Science, Marginal Revolution

Outpatient Wait Times and Quality of Care for Medicaid Patients (with Amy Finkelstein and Liran Einav), Health Affairs, 36(5), May 2017: 826-832. Online Appendix.

Abstract: The time patients spend in a doctor’s waiting room prior to a scheduled appointment is an important component of the quality of the overall health care experience. We analyzed data on twenty-one million outpatient visits obtained from electronic health record systems, which allowed us to measure time spent in the waiting room beyond the scheduled appointment time. Median wait time was a little more than four minutes. Almost one-fifth of visits had waits longer than twenty minutes, and 10 percent were more than thirty minutes. Waits were shorter for early-morning appointments, for younger patients, and at larger practices. Median wait time was 4.1 minutes for privately insured patients and 4.6 minutes for Medicaid patients. After adjustment for patient and appointment characteristics, Medicaid patients were 20 percent more likely than the privately insured patients to wait longer than twenty minutes, with most of this disparity explained by differences in practices and providers they saw. Wait times for Medicaid patients relative to privately insured patients were longer in states with relatively lower Medicaid reimbursement rates. The study complements other work that suggests that Medicaid patients face some additional barriers in the receipt of care.

Press: MIT News, Brookings