Is Health Insurance Good for Your Financial Health?
What is the purpose of health care? What is the purpose of health insurance? When people fall ill, they seek health care in order to get better. But insurance has a slightly different function: Its main role is not to protect our health per se, but to protect our finances. For most people, lifetime health expenditures are quite low. However, some people have enormous health costs owing to major illnesses or health conditions. And this is where health insurance comes in?its goal (like that of any other form of insurance) is to protect these individuals against large, and sometimes ruinous, ...
Investigating the Effect of Health Insurance in the COVID-19 Pandemic
Does health insurance improve health? This question, while apparently a tautology, has been the subject of considerable economic debate. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has acquired a greater urgency as the lack of universal health insurance has been cited as a cause of the profound racial gap in coronavirus cases, and as a cause of U.S. difficulties in managing the pandemic more generally. However, estimating the effect of health insurance is difficult because it is (generally) not assigned at random. In this post, we approach this question in a novel way by exploiting a natural ...
A Discussion of Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century: By How Much Is r Greater than g?
Thomas Piketty’s 2014 book Capital in the Twenty-First Century may have been a greater sensation upon publication than Karl Marx’s nineteenth-century Das Kapital. It made the New York Times bestseller list, generated myriad reviews and responses from economists at top institutions, and was the subject of a standing-room-only session at the recent American Economic Association annual meeting. In Capital, Piketty argues that wealth inequality is set to rise from its relatively low levels in the 1950s through the 1970s to the very high levels it once occupied at the dawn of the Industrial ...
Understanding the Racial and Income Gap in COVID-19: Social Distancing, Pollution, and Demographics
This is the third post in a series looking to explain the gap in COVID-19 intensity by race and by income. In the first two posts, we have investigated whether comorbidities, uninsurance, hospital resources, and home and transit crowding help explain the income and minority gaps. Here, we continue our investigation by looking at three additional potential channels: the fraction of elderly people, pollution, and social distancing at the beginning of the pandemic in the county. We aim to understand whether these three factors affect overall COVID-19 intensity, whether the income and racial gaps ...
How Stable Is China’s Growth? Shedding Light on Sparse Data
Policymakers, academics, and market participants have raised many questions in recent years over the accuracy of China’s official economic growth rates, both in terms of levels and volatility. This issue is of considerable importance for policymakers because fluctuations in China’s economic activity can have significant impacts on growth, employment, inflation, and other policy objectives, given China’s large shares of world output, trade, and commodity demand, and its rapidly growing role in global financial markets. This study addresses the question of growth volatility using a set of ...
The “Cadillac Tax”: Driving Firms to Change Their Plans?
Since the 1940s, employers that provide health insurance for their employees can deduct the cost as a business expense, but the government does not treat the value of that coverage as taxable income. This exclusion of employer-provided health insurance from taxable income?$248 billion in 2013, according to the Congressional Budget Office?is a huge subsidy for health spending. Many economists cite the distortionary effects of this tax subsidy as an important reason for why U.S. health care spending accounts for such a large share of the economy and why spending historically has grown so ...
The ‘Banking Desert’ Mirage
Unbanked households are often imagined to live in urban neighborhoods devoid of banks, but is that really the case? Our map of U.S. banking deserts reveals that most are not in urban areas, where financial exclusion may be endemic, but in actual deserts?largely in the sparsely populated, rural West. Across states, we find that the share of the population in a banking desert is unrelated to the share that is unbanked. If distance from a bank is not what causes financial exclusion, then motivating banks to locate closer to the unbanked may not promote financial inclusion.
Unequal Burdens: Racial Differences in ICU Stress during the Third Wave of COVID-19
A critical risk during the COVID-19 pandemic has been the possibility of the hospital system becoming overwhelmed. COVID-19 not only has killed nearly 2 percent of people with confirmed infections but causes many more who contract it to develop severe complications that are potentially fatal if not treated in an intensive care unit (ICU). As ICU capacity is based on typical needs for intensive care before the pandemic, a surge of COVID-related ICU patients may leave no room for individuals requiring intensive care for other reasons—such as heart attacks—or may exceed the total ICU ...
Do Expansions in Health Insurance Affect Student Loan Outcomes?
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) is arguably the biggest policy intervention in health insurance in the United States since the passage of Medicaid and Medicare in 1965. The Act was signed into law in March 2010, and by 2016 approximately 20 to 24 million additional Americans were covered with health insurance. Such an extension of insurance coverage could affect not only medical bills, but also educational, employment, and broader financial outcomes. In this post, we take an initial look at the relationship between the ACA and higher education financing choices and ...
Understanding the Racial and Income Gap in COVID-19: Essential Workers
This is the fourth and final post in this series aimed at understanding the gap in COVID-19 intensity by race and by income. The previous three posts focused on the role of mediating variables—such as uninsurance rates, comorbidities, and health resource in the first post; public transportation, and home crowding in the second; and social distancing, pollution, and age composition in the third—in explaining the racial and income gap in the incidence of COVID-19. In this post, we now investigate the role of employment in essential services in explaining this gap.