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Essays in Health Economics


Guth, Daniel Robert (2023) Essays in Health Economics. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/xz1z-zw28.


This thesis consists of three health economics papers, two studying the effectiveness of policy interventions on the opioid epidemic, and one on the effects of air pollution on school absences. The first two chapters were coauthored with Shiyu Zhang, a former Caltech graduate student.

The first chapter examines the market for prescription opioids following the OxyContin Reformulation, an event that made OxyContin harder to misuse. Using detailed prescription opioid sales data from 2006 to 2014, we show that event did not reduce overdose deaths but led individuals to switch to generic oxycodone as a substitute for OxyContin.

The second chapter examines geographic spillover effects from state prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs). We show that these policies reduce prescription opioid sales and opioid overdose deaths in the state they are enacted in. However, because they only track opioids sold locally, these programs induce individuals to drive across state lines to purchase opioids and avoid these regulations.

The final chapter examines the effects of air pollution on NYC school absences using daily changes in wind direction. I show that PM2.5 and Ozone concentrations are strongly influenced by wind patterns, and exposure to these two pollutants causes detectable increases in absences over the following two days. Reductions in PM2.5 pollution over time have prevented approximately 381,000 absences annually in NYC which increases school funding by $19 million.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Opioids, Health Economics
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Humanities and Social Sciences
Major Option:Social Science
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Rosenthal, Jean-Laurent
Thesis Committee:
  • Alvarez, R. Michael (chair)
  • Rosenthal, Jean-Laurent
  • Shum, Matthew S.
  • Xin, Yi
  • Xu, Benjamin Y.
Defense Date:19 May 2023
Non-Caltech Author Email:drobertguth (AT)
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:05242023-072837100
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription adapted for Chapter 1. adapted for Chapter 2.
Guth, Daniel Robert0000-0003-0937-5282
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:15206
Deposited By: Daniel Guth
Deposited On:02 Jun 2023 23:38
Last Modified:09 Jun 2023 19:04

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