Levin, Victoria (2010). Choices and consequences: decisions on health, wealth, and employment. Master's thesis / Doctoral dissertation.
This collection of essays investigates the determinants of individual decisions pertaining to health, wealth, and employment, as well as the effects of these choices on welfare. The first essay examines the decision to take up prescription drug insurance in the context of the 2004/5 Russian benefit monetization reform. This essay uses a new set of questions included in a nationally-representative household survey to investigate the determinants of take-up and to explore its effects on beneficiaries' health outcomes and healthcare utilization. Regression analysis reveals that healthier people were less likely to choose the prescription drug insurance, which resulted in significant adverse selection. Propensity score and matching techniques suggest no significant declines in health for those opting out of the prescription drug insurance, and no evidence is found for substitution towards hospital care. The second essay focuses on the decision to prepare for one's demise by writing a will. This paper explores the relationship between will-holding and "death denial," or the inability to confront one's mortality. I propose the first operationalization of "death denial" in economic literature as the subjective self-assessment of 100% chance of survival to a target age, based on the questions in the Health and Retirement Study. Probit regressions reveal that death deniers are about 4-6% less likely to be will-holders. This finding supports the claim of psychological costs involved in estate planning, and could partly account for the observed underutilization of other intergenerational wealth transfers. The third essay considers the choice of search methods in the job search of postdoctoral scholars, and how this decision affects satisfaction, productivity, and turnover through the quality of the match between scholar and position. Using data on U.S. postdoctoral scholars from the Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society, we find suggestive evidence of weaker networks for foreign postdoctoral scholars, who more often resort to "impersonal" searches. The resulting difference in job match quality is related to differences in turnover, satisfaction, and productivity. We expect policies facilitating the job placement of foreign scholars to yield beneficial effects on the pace of innovation.