NBER Publications by Joshua Schwartzstein

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Working Papers and Chapters

October 2012Behavioral Hazard in Health Insurance
with Katherine Baicker, Sendhil Mullainathan: w18468
This paper develops a model of health insurance that incorporates behavioral biases. In the traditional model, people who are insured overuse low value medical care because of moral hazard. There is ample evidence, though, of a different inefficiency: people underuse high value medical care because they make mistakes. Such "behavioral hazard" changes the fundamental tradeoff between insurance and incentives. With only moral hazard, raising copays increases the efficiency of demand by ameliorating overuse. With the addition of behavioral hazard, raising copays may reduce efficiency by exaggerating underuse. This means that estimating the demand response is no longer enough for setting optimal copays; the health response needs to be considered as well. This provides a theoretical foundation ...

Published: Behavioral Hazard in Health Insurance* Katherine Baicker Harvard University Sendhil Mullainathan Harvard University Joshua Schwartzstein The Quarterly Journal of Economics (2015) doi: 10.1093/qje/qjv029 First published online: July 15, 2015

September 2012Learning Through Noticing: Theory and Experimental Evidence in Farming
with Rema Hanna, Sendhil Mullainathan: w18401
Existing learning models attribute failures to learn to a lack of data. We model a different barrier. Given the large number of dimensions one could focus on when using a technology, people may fail to learn because they failed to notice important features of the data they possess. We conduct a field experiment with seaweed farmers to test a model of "learning through noticing". We find evidence of a failure to notice: On some dimensions, farmers do not even know the value of their own input. Interestingly, trials show that these dimensions are the ones that farmers fail to optimize. Furthermore, consistent with the model, we find that simply having access to the experimental data does not induce learning. Instead, farmers change behavior only when presented with summaries that highlight t...

Published: Learning Through Noticing: Theory and Experimental Evidence in Farming* Rema Hanna Harvard University, NBER and BREAD Sendhil Mullainathan Harvard University and BREAD Joshua Schwartzstein The Quarterly Journal of Economics (2014) doi: 10.1093/qje/qju015 First published online: June 9, 2014

February 2009An Activity-Generating Theory of Regulation
with Andrei Shleifer: w14752
We propose an activity-generating theory of regulation. When courts make errors, tort litigation becomes unpredictable and as such imposes risk on firms, thereby discouraging entry, innovation, and other socially desirable activity. When social returns to innovation are higher than private returns, it may pay the society to generate some information ex ante about how risky firms are, and to impose safety standards based on that information. In some situations, compliance with such standards should entirely preempt tort liability; in others, it should merely reduce penalties. By reducing litigation risk, this type of regulation can raise welfare.

Published: Joshua Schwartzstein & Andrei Shleifer, 2013. "An Activity-Generating Theory of Regulation," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 56(1), pages 1 - 38. citation courtesy of

December 2006Coarse Thinking and Persuasion
with Sendhil Mullainathan, Andrei Shleifer: w12720
We present a model of coarse thinking, in which individuals group situations into categories, and transfer the informational content of a given message from situations in a category where it is useful to those where it is not. The model explains how uninformative messages can be persuasive, particularly in low involvement situations, and how objectively informative messages can be dropped by the persuader without the audience assuming the worst. The model sheds light on product branding, the structure of product attributes, and several puzzling aspects of mutual fund advertising.

Published: Sendhil Mullainathan & Joshua Schwartzstein & Andrei Shleifer, 2008. "Coarse Thinking and Persuasion," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 123(2), pages 577-619, 05. citation courtesy of

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