New Economics Faculty Explore Research in Health Care, Student Learning, Auctions and Decision Making

Two tenure track faculty joined the Department of Economics this fall and are working on research which will positively impact their field. These two scholars are studying the areas of health care, student learning experiences, auctions and the decision-making that goes into auctions.

Dr. Amanda Cook, assistant professor, earned her Ph.D. in economics from Purdue. Her research focuses on health insurance and public policy questions associated with health insurance. She analyzes big data sets with millions of health records. These large data sets allow her to ask questions about patient health outcomes or to determine the prices insurance companies pay for medical services. She describes her project.

“I am currently working a project that looks at the difference in the amount of medical services inpatients receive when they have health insurance and when they are uninsured. It turns out uninsured patients receive about 8% fewer services than their insured counterparts.”

“Another project looks at which factors are important when a hospital and insurance company are negotiating a price for patient services. We find that academic medical centers, which have highly specialized and cutting edge services, get a higher price. Prices are lower when there is a similar hospital nearby.  The next step in this project is to model patients choosing which hospital to go to and use that to inform our model of hospitals and insurance companies bargaining over prices.”   

Dr. Cook also is interested in researching the best techniques for student learning. “I also want to be investigating how to create the best learning environment and incentive structures for our students by researching my current students and their behaviors. I assist educators in improving their pedagogy by sharing the results of these experiments.”  

Dr. Rachel Shafer, assistant professor, also joined the economics faculty at BGSU this fall. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois-Champaign. Her research interests include auctions, mechanism design, and decision theory.

Her dissertation examines a theoretical model of sealed-bid double auctions (auctions that involve many buyers and many sellers -“call market” is another term for this type of auction) populated by regret-minimizing traders.

Dr. Shafer states how her research differs from what has been studied before. “Considering traders that are regret minimizers is a departure from the more typical approach of assuming that traders maximize their expected profit. Since it is not always realistic to assume that the traders in a market have the information they would need to calculate and coordinate on an equilibrium, I investigate whether traders that use a decision rule that requires less information could still respond to increased competition in the market and get close to an efficient outcome if the market was large enough.”