Examining the Occupational Health and Safety of Workers

Marcus Dillender headshot.

Dr. Marcus Dillender is an assistant professor of health policy and administration. He is an economist whose research lies at the intersection of health, labor and public economics. His broad research interests include occupational health and the medical treatment that injured workers receive, health insurance as a benefit for workers and healthcare labor markets. His past research projects have characterized the effect of temperature on workers’ injury rates, shown how healthcare education and labor markets respond to Medicaid expansions and evaluated the impact of prior authorization requirements on the prescription drugs and medical care that injured workers receive. In other projects, he has studied the impact of mandates that employers offer health insurance to full-time workers on part-time employment and considered how the ability to obtain employer-sponsored health insurance coverage through a family member affects labor force participation.

With a colleague at the University of Texas, Dillender is currently using a dataset of workers’ compensation claims from the state of Texas to study how various aspects of workers’ compensation insurance affect the medical care and cash benefits that injured workers receive through the workers’ compensation system. One study with this data set leverages a large increase in the maximum income benefits that claimants can receive if they have to miss work because of injuries to examine the impact of income benefit levels on claimant behavior. Dillender and his coauthor show that higher income benefits increase both claimants’ time out of work and the amount of medical care claimants receive after an injury. The effect of income benefits on medical care has not previously been studied, and the findings suggest that claims are more responsive to income benefits than previously realized.

Another current study examines the impact of Mexican immigration to the United States on the occupational health and safety of U.S. natives. Along with a coauthor at Tufts University, Dillender first uses data on occupations’ environments and tasks from the Occupational Information Network to create an index of occupational risk for each occupation. Using census, American Community Survey and Current Population Survey data, Dillender and his coauthor then show that as more Mexican immigrants move into a state, natives in that state work in safer jobs and have fewer occupational injuries. Thus, Mexican immigration appears to improve the occupational health and safety of U.S. natives.

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