Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
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Applied microeconomist with research focus in health economics
Erin Johnson, Ph.D. worked as a research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW) and a visiting lecturer in the economics department at Wellesley College during the 2016-2017 academic year; she continues her teaching at Wellesley College (updated September 2017). She is also a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research. Johnson is an applied microeconomist who uses large datasets to answer health policy questions. Recent projects have studied the factors that influence expert decision-making in health care.
Johnson’s paper with M. Marit Rehavi, titled “Physicians Treating Physicians: Information and Incentives in Childbirth,” provides new evidence on how financial incentives and patient information affect physician treatment decisions. Using rich micro-data on millions of childbirths, the paper compares the treatment of physicians when they are patients with that of non-physicians. Physician-patients are 10 percent less likely to get a Cesarean Section than non-physician patients, and the effect is reversed in an environment where there is a financial incentive for vaginal birth rather than Cesarean section. While financial incentives affect the treatment of non-physicians, physician-patients are largely unaffected, suggesting information is an effective counterweight to provider incentives.
Recently, Johnson has studied how the physician-patient relationship affects treatment as well as how providers respond to diagnostic labels, evidence-based treatment guidelines, and guidelines that are not evidence-based.
Before joining WCW in 2016, Johnson was an assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has a Ph.D. in economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and an A.B. from Princeton University. She previously worked as a management consultant at the Boston Consulting Group.
Johnson has studied how physicians respond to quality information when referring patients to specialists, how physicians respond to financial incentives, how the physician-patient relationship affects treatment, and the impact of treatment decisions on patient health.
Physicians Treating Physicians: Information and Incentives in Childbirth (with M. Marit Rehavi). American Economic Journal: Economic Policy (February 2016)
Physician-Induced Demand, Encyclopedia of Health Economics (2014), pp. 77-82.
American Economic Association
American Society of Health Economists