Individual Results May Vary: Elementary Analytics of Inequality-Probability Bounds, with Applications to Health-Outcome Treatment Effects

John Mullahy

NBER Working Paper No. 23603
Issued in July 2017
NBER Program(s):Health Care, Health Economics

While many results from the treatment-effect and related literatures are familiar and have been applied productively in health economics evaluations, other potentially useful results from those literatures have had little influence on health economics practice. With the intent of demonstrating the value and use of some such results in health economics applications, this paper focuses on one particular class of parameters that describe probabilities that one outcome is larger or smaller than other outcomes, namely inequality probabilities. While the properties of such parameters have been explored in the technical literature, they have scarcely been considered in informing practical questions in health evaluations. This paper discusses how such probabilities can be used informatively, and describes how they might be identified or bounded given standard sampling assumptions and information only on marginal distributions of outcomes. Graphical and algebraic exposition reveals the logic supporting these results, as well as their empirical implementation, to be quite straightforward. Applications to health outcome evaluations are presented and discussed throughout.

download in pdf format
   (3080 K)

email paper

The NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health provides summaries of publications like this.  You can sign up to receive the NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health by email.

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w23603

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
García and Saavedra w23594 Educational Impacts and Cost-Effectiveness of Conditional Cash Transfer Programs in Developing Countries: A Meta-Analysis
Heckman, Holland, Makino, Pinto, and Rosales-Rueda w23610 An Analysis of the Memphis Nurse-Family Partnership Program
Bloom, Chen, Kuhn, McGovern, Oxley, and Prettner w23601 The Economic Burden of Chronic Diseases: Estimates and Projections for China, Japan, and South Korea
Abraham, Drake, Sacks, and Simon w23597 Demand for Health Insurance Marketplace Plans Was Highly Elastic in 2014-2015
Cooper, Scott Morton, and Shekita w23623 Surprise! Out-of-Network Billing for Emergency Care in the United States
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us