CU Population Center

Institute of Behavioral Science

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Ryan Brown: “Health Insurance and Child Health: Evidence from Seguro Popular”

September 18, 2023 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

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Abstract: Universal public health insurance is being implemented across the globe putting substantial pressure on public finances. Whereas the impact of these programs on health care utilization has been well documented, there is limited evidence on the causal impacts on population health. This study contributes to filling this important gap by exploiting the roll-out of Seguro Popular, a large-scale program that provides public health insurance to about half of Mexico’s population. We identify the causal impact of the program on child health as measured by height, an indicator of longer-run nutritional status that is correlated with adult health and human capital. We find that program effects tend to increase over time and are significantly positive five years after the program has been established. These results have important implications for the design and evaluation of public health insurance.

Bio: Ryan Brown is an Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Colorado Denver and an Affiliate of the University of Colorado Population Center. His training in the fields of development economics, health economics, demography, applied econometrics and program evaluation, has led to a portfolio of projects related to women’s health, birth outcomes, and human capital accumulation.

Specifically, his previous research has documented the impact of a public policy requiring midwives to be trained and licensed on maternal mortality, the relationship between a mother’s mental health during pregnancy and birth outcomes, the effect of maternal exposure to an infectious disease on the long-term socioeconomic outcomes of the in utero child, the impact of excess childhood fluoride exposure on cognitive development, and the relationship between local insecurity and risk aversion among adults and the educational investment decisions of adolescents. To date papers from these lines of inquiry have been published in Demography, the Journal of Development Economics, the Journal of Political Economy, the Review of Economics and Statistics, and the World Bank Economic Review.

One of his recent projects is related to the contemporaneous and long-term impact of the health environment during pregnancy by exploring the importance of access to clean water. To do this he exploits exogenous variation in the risk of waterborne disease created by the implementation of a major clean water reform in Mexico in 1991, Programa de Agua Limpia (PAL). He pairs the temporal and geographic differences in clean water access generated by this public policy with nationally representative longitudinal data which will allow us to study the impact of PAL during early childhood on cognitive wellbeing, physical stature, and socioeconomic status in early adulthood.

The perspective Ryan has gained from working alongside colleagues from various fields makes an affiliation with the University of Colorado Population Center (CUPC) a natural fit that is mutually beneficial. His expertise is ideally suited to contribute to the CUPC’s interest in fostering research designed to tackle the important issues of population and reproductive health and the CUPC is able to, in turn, support his academic goals by encouraging collaborative work the faculty associates, supporting the dissemination of his research, and providing critical computing and information resources.


September 18, 2023
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
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