Most people do not understand what a health economist is. Where do they work? What do they do? How do they spend their time? How are they trained?
A paper by Morrisey and Cawley (Health Econ 2008) attempts to answer this question. The authors conducted an online survey to achieve a better understanding of what health economists do.
Ninety-three percent of health economists have a Ph.D. A few health economists have an MD (2.6%), an RN (1%) or a JD (<1%) in addition to their PhD. Of those with a Ph.D., 72% have a Ph.D. in Economics. Below are a list of the economics departments that have trained the most health economists in the sample:
|Institution||Health Economists trained in the sample|
|Univ. of Washington||8|
|Washington Univ. (St. Louis)||5|
Seventy-six percent of health economists wrote a health related dissertation, even though 2/3 of graduate programs lacked a formal health economics field. For instance, at UCSD I am writing my dissertation on health economics even though there is not established program.
Where do health economists work? Most work in academia (64%), but a large percentage also work for the government (12%), NGOs (15%) or the private sector (9%). Of those who are academically employed, below is a chart detailing where their principal appointment is located.
|Arts & Science||17%|
For those who work in public health or medical school about 50% of their salary is made up from funding from external grants and contracts.
Below is a chart detailing the subspecialty of the health economists in the survey. Respondents could choose multiple options.
|Behavior of Individuals (e.g.: Labor Econ)||50%|
|Behavior of Firms (e.g.: Industrial Organization)||34%|
|Government policies (e.g.: Public Finance)||50%|
|Outcomes Research (CEA, CBA, Burden of Illness)||50%|
After reading this post, hopefully you now have some idea of who health economists are and what they do.
- Morrisey MA, Cawley J. 2008. “US Health Economists: Who we are and what we do” Health Economics, 17(4): 535-543.