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  • Thumbnail for Penalties and Prospect Theory: Evidence from the Affordable Care Act
    Penalties and Prospect Theory: Evidence from the Affordable Care Act by Jolly, Adam

    The Affordable Care Act was a monumental piece of health legislation, impacting welfare, insurance coverage rates, and medical expenditures. Previous economic studies have documented the exact magnitude of these effects. However, the behavioral mechanics that rendered these efficacious outcomes possible have gone by somewhat undocumented. This thesis addresses this concern, by proposing a theoretical framework derived from prospect theory that analyzes how the individual mandate provision impacted demand for health insurance. This framework is empirically tested on young adults (aged 20-25) with a difference-in-differences linear probability model. Findings are consistent with proposed behavioral theory, suggesting that penalties induce demand for insurance by editing reference points and heightening loss-aversion. Additionally, results imply that young adults have marginally more responsive loss-preferences when compared to control counterparts (aged 27-30). Conclusions drawn from this model provide an increased understanding of young adult decision-making processes with the usage of real evidence.