Preventive Health Behaviors among the Elderly
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This dissertation consists of three essays that study preventive health behaviors among the elderly U.S. population.
The first essay studies the effect of Medicare coverage on demand for the influenza vaccine. I use a propensity score matching estimator to look at the effect of the 1993 Medicare part B coverage of the flu shot on demand. Using data from the Medicare Current Beneficiary survey, I find that the coverage increases demand by 12.4%. I also find that this effect varies by smoking status and by the presence chronic respiratory illnesses such as COPD, Asthma or Emphysema.
The second essay examines the effect of disease specific health shocks on risk perceptions and demand for the pneumonia vaccine. I find strong evidence of learning - individuals who experience a health shock are less likely to believe that they are not at risk of infection, conditional on prior beliefs. This change in beliefs is accompanied by a corresponding change in demand. Individuals who contract pneumonia or influenza are 60% more likely to vaccinate by the end of next year as compared to those who are not infected.
The third essay studies the relationship between education and health for a sample of elderly diabetics. We identify various mechanisms through which more education leads to improved health. We find that part of the strong positive correlation between educational attainment and health can be explained through differences in cognitive status, self-control and parental characteristics. However, some part of this relationship still remains unexplained.
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