Physician Bias and Racial Disparities in Health: Evidence from Veterans' Pensions
Trevon Logan (UC Santa Barbara, Economics)
Monday, 10/28/2019, 12:00pm
Location: ISR-Thompson 1430
We estimate racial differences in longevity using records from cohorts of Union Army veterans. Since veterans received pensions based on proof of disability at medical exams, estimates of the causal effect of income on mortality may be biased, as sicker veterans received larger pensions. To circumvent endogeneity bias, we propose an exogenous source of variation in pension income: the judgment of the doctors who certified disability. We find that doctors appeared to discriminate against black veterans. The discrimination we observe is acute---we would not observe any racial mortality differences had physicians not been racially biased in determining pension awards. The effect of income on health was indeed large enough to close the black-white mortality gap in the period. Our work emphasizes that the large effects of physicians' attitudes on racial differentials in health, which persist today amongst both veterans and the civilian population, were equally prominent in the past.
He was a Postdoctoral Fellow at PSC 2009-11.
Professor Logan specializes in economic history, economic demography and applied microeconomics. His research in economic history concerns the development of living standards measures that can be used to directly asses the question of how the human condition has changed over time. He applies the techniques of contemporary living standard measurements to the past as a means of deriving consistent estimates of well-being over time. Most of his historical work uses historical household surveys, but also includes some new data to look at topics such as the returns to education in the early twentieth century, the formation of tastes, and the allocation of resources within the household. He is currently extending his historical research agenda to include topics such as childhood health, mortality, morbidity, and racial disparities in health.