By: Angélica Meinhofer, Weill Cornell Medicine
Several members of the American Society of Health Economists participated in a session at the Allied Social Sciences Association’s Annual Meeting in New Orleans on January 6th 2023. The session, entitled “Race and Ethnicity: Discrimination in Healthcare Markets, Disparate Impacts of Policy, Outcomes,” was organized by Kosali Simon (Indiana University) and Christopher “Kitt” Carpenter (Vanderbilt University), and chaired by Marcella Alsan (Harvard University). The session covered four studies.
The first study, entitled “Discrimination Against Doctors: A Field Experiment” by Alex Chan (Sandford University), consisted of a field experiment that randomized information on doctor quality to patients seeking healthcare providers for a colonoscopy. The study documented that patients discriminated against Black and Asian doctors -compared to White doctors- when choosing healthcare providers, and that this discrimination could be substantially reduced by supplying patients with information on physician quality.
The second study, entitled “State Recreational Cannabis Laws and Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System” by Angelica Meinhofer (Weill Cornell Medicine), Adrian Rubli (ITAM), and Jamein Cunningham (Cornell University), studied the effect of cannabis legalization on racial disparities in the criminal justice continuum using a difference-in-differences framework. The study documented that legalization led to sizable reductions in arrest rates for cannabis possession and sales across all racial groups, resulting in declines in relative and absolute disparities for Black populations when compared to White populations. However, declines in drug arrests were accompanied by offsetting increases in arrests for disorderly conduct and simple assault, which are less serious offenses that often reflect discretionary police behavior.
The third study, entitled “Capacity Strain and Racial Disparities in Hospital Mortality” by Manasvini Singh (University of Massachusetts Amherst) and Atheendar Venkataramani (University of Pennsylvania), used detailed electronic health record data from two large hospitals to document that in-hospital mortality increased more for Black patients than for White patients as hospitals approached capacity. They also found that the largest racial disparities in mortality were among women and uninsured patients, suggesting that biases in provider behavior and hospital processes may be potential mechanisms driving their results.
The fourth study, entitled “The Changing Relationship Between Local Income and Racial Disparities in Infant Mortality” by EK Green (University of Arizona), examined the differential impact of local personal income levels on infant mortality for White and non-White infants in the United States using county level mortality data from 1962-2016. The study, which reflects a lack of detailed race information in historical mortality data, documented that non-White infants have higher infant mortality rates than White infants on average, but also see greater reduction in infant mortality rates associated with residence in a state with higher average non-White per capita income, as well as a state or county with higher average per capita income overall.