Becker Friedman Institute

Research Repository

Research. Insights. Impact. Advancing the Legacy of Chicago Economics.

Health Economics

The health of a population and the growth of healthcare economies depend in large part on both healthcare markets and the public policies and subsidies governing those markets. Improving health and the workings of the healthcare sector requires a better understanding of how the sector functions, the relationship between this sector and other parts of the economy, and the appropriate roles of markets and governments in providing its goods and services.

The Becker Friedman Institute is launching its Health Economics Initiative with a Program on Foundational Research in Health Care Markets and Policies. This program aims to develop and support faculty researchers advancing fundamental economic research on health and the healthcare sector.

The Initiative will work to produce and promote truly original health economics research that merges economic theory with empirical analysis. The institute will stimulate innovative research that focuses on fundamental forces affecting the healthcare economies and the policies that govern them. In addition, the Initiative will promote research on how the healthcare sector interacts with other parts of the economy such as labor or capital markets.

The Initiative will seek to create a community of on-campus and visiting researchers undertaking novel research approaches to enhancing our understanding of the forces driving healthcare economies and policies. Research conferences and other activities will foster direct exchanges among scholars that inspire new avenues of inquiry.

The focus of the Initiative will be to stress the interaction between theoretical work that generates new hypotheses to understand the healthcare sector and empirical work that evaluates the value of these hypotheses or suggests new ones. This will be in contrast to much work in the field today that has relegated health economics into a strand of “quantitative journalism,” often focused on immediate news issues and empirical accounting-style analysis.

Much of this research is focused on how empirical analysis is conducted without any regards to the economic importance and novelty of what is analyzed. This non-cumulative approach to health economic research has not been successful in generating new hypotheses and has not led to progressive discoveries over time.          

In contrast, this program will aim to stimulate fundamental research on the healthcare economy, using both theoretical and empirical analysis that complement, rather than replace, each other. In short, the goal will be to infuse more economic rigor into health economics.

In furthering this goal, the Initiative will advance new research by funding several fellowships and visiting positions for those at the dissertation stage, postdoctoral scholars, and more senior researchers. In addition, the center will hold an annual conference of this research community to stimulate interaction between researchers across campuses.  

The program on will be overseen by Tomas Philipson, director, in collaboration with Casey Mulligan and David Meltzer

Financial support for the Initiative has been provided by the Charles Koch Foundation, The Thomas W. Smith Foundation, Pfizer Inc, and James H. Schloemer, MBA '83.