Weinberg takes an Economic Approach to Healthcare

Weinberg takes an Economic
Approach to Healthcare

In 2008, Stephen E. Weinberg joined Rockefeller College as assistant professor in the department of public administration and policy. He describes himself as an economist whose research focuses on what happens as the microeconomics of government policy, health, and psychology intersect; he believes research on public finance can be enriched if human psychology is factored into the examination.

Weinberg’s current research at Rockefeller College utilizes this approach as he continues his study of the cigarette industry, a subject he researched in graduate school. Dr. Weinberg received his AB in social studies from Harvard College, graduating magna cum laude. He then went on to Harvard University, graduating with a PhD in economics under the tutelage of David Cutler and David Laibson. His dissertation, “Essays in Life Cycle Consumption Decisions,” included a general examination of decision making and looked specifically at decisions over the entire life cycle related to savings and smoking. While in graduate school, Weinberg received scholarships from the National Science Foundation and the National Bureau of Economic Research; he also assisted in teaching introductory econometrics and designed his own sophomore seminar in behavioral and experimental economics. Before coming to Rockefeller College, he spent two years at Duke University, where he taught introductory economics, and designed and taught writing seminars on health economics, public economics, and behavioral economics.

In his current research, Weinberg considers whether prospective cigarette consumers, particularly youths, are susceptible to certain types of marketing strategies and if there are incentives for cigarette companies to employ such methods. Weinberg believes his findings, including what causes people to start or stop smoking, can assist policy makers as they grapple with the public health consequences of smoking and try to develop targeted anti-smoking campaigns. His methodology includes psychology-style experiments and statistical analysis of social surveys conducted by various public health agencies, using as his main data set a survey on cigarette use in California. Weinberg is also using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which is collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Dr. Weinberg teaches several courses at Rockefeller College, including Principles of Public Economics, an elective in public finance, and a new course titled Psychological Economics and Policy. This spring he will teach a PhD level economics course as well. He considers his primary teaching and research fields to be health economics, psychological economics and public economics; his secondary areas are econometrics, experimental economics and industrial organization. His publications include “The Hyperbolic Buffer Stock Model: Calibration, Simulation and Empirical Evaluation” for the Journal of Economic Perspectives and “Information Acquisition: Experimental Analysis of a Boundedly Rational Model” from the American Economic Review. His current research is reflected in his working papers on “Flexible Youths and Sticky Adults: Advertising to Overlapping Generations in the Cigarette Industry.”

Stephen Weinberg’s approach to the examination of what happens when public finance intersects with human behavior and psychology is exciting and rich in potential, providing fertile ground for developing public health policy that will resonate with the individuals it affects.