Early-life conditions and later-life outcomes

A growing literature analyses the so-called Barker or fetal origins hypothesis, according to which external conditions during pregnancy and early childhood can have far-reaching consequences later in life. One of the major supporters and name giver of this hypothesis was David Barker, who stated that the environment of the fetus during the in-utero period and fetal undernutrition can lead to coronary heart disease or obesity in adulthood. Researchers in economics have taken the analysis one step further by investigating whether in-utero and early life conditions have effects on a variety of other health- and socioeconomic outcomes.

Education, Health and Labour Market Outcomes

Governments around the world recognise the importance of education for its impact on the development of individuals and the societies in which they live, and invest large shares of their budgets in education. Given the considerable costs of education, it is of great importance to evaluate whether and how education improves living conditions.

The market for private helath insurance

Only very few countries in the world rely on a privately organised market for health insurance. Besides the United States and Chile, Germany is one of the very few countries with an entirely private health insurance market, not just a supplemental one. In Germany the statutory health insurance insures about 90% of the population while the remaining 10% are covered by the market for private health insurance. Since the market for health insurance experiences regular adjustments initiated by law this offers great opportunities for economic analysis and evaluation.

Population Ageing and Long-Term Care

The ageing population is one of the greatest challenges for western societies. Demographic trends are mainly driven by two factors: First, relatively low birth rates in most European countries lead to shrinking populations. Second, an increasing life expectancy increases the proportion of older people in a given population. How strongly this affects the demand for long-term care (LTC) depends on the main determinants of the increasing life expectancy. Despite the increasing social and economic role of LTC, our existing knowledge of the determinants of demand for, and supply of, LTC as well as of the macroeconomic importance of LTC is limited.

The Economics of Disease

The process of globalisation which gained momentum during the last decades of the 20th century has led to a degree of interconnectedness between people throughout the World, which is unparalleled in human history. The globalisation process – characterised by increased international trade, capital and investment movements, migration between countries and an increased exchange and dissemination of knowledge – has brought many improvements to people in developing and developed countries alike. However, the deepening integration of world markets also increases our vulnerability to infectious disease. It is the aim of this project to analyse the economic implications of diseases such as the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.

Climate Change, Pollution and Human Health Outcomes

Economists have shown a rapidly growing interest in the relationship between environment and health. The topic has gained increased relevance in recent years with emerging global climate change (e.g. warming temperatures and extreme weather events), but also due to new insights on the detriments of environmental pollution (e.g. water and air pollution, toxins). Yet the various pathways between environmental factors, human health, child development and labour productivity are not well understood. More research is needed in order to understand the causal pathways and to identify policy interventions suitable to enhance human health and social welfare.

Sick leave

Statutory sickness insurance protects employees against temporary income losses that arise from workplace absences due to illness. However, it is important to evaluate whether shirking or presenteeism dominates in behavioural reactions. Even though it is very hard to provide reliable evidence in any direction, the answer to this question is critical in evaluating the effects of public policy reforms: if benefits are too restrictive, employees may go to work even though they are sick (presenteeism) and spread contagious diseases. On the other hand, if benefits are too generous, employees may call in sick although they are healthy (absenteeism/shirking), which leads to direct costs. Hence an efficient sickness insurance system minimises both phenomena.