Presenter: Monica Galizzi (University of Massachusetts, Lowell. Economics)
Discussant: Forrest McCluerGreylock McKinnon Associates
In 2008, firms in the United States reported 3.7 million nonfatal injuries and illness (BLS, 2008). These injuries and sickness were quite costly: their costs included wage losses, productivity losses, medical expenses and administrative expenses and the National Safety Council estimated such costs to be over $160 billion dollars in 2005. We know however relatively little about the repetitive nature of these injuries. The debate on this topic often ask whether they results from workers’ original health problems, inexperience, tendency to abuse the workers’ compensation system, or from failure of those regulations designed to assist injured workers or prevent injuries. This paper tries to cast some new light on this topic. It makes use of data from the NLSY79 to determine factors that may explain multiple episodes of occupational injuries and illnesses. It represents the first study to estimate individual occupational injuries incidence rates over long spells of individuals’ working lives (12-22 years).
Almost 26% of the entire population surveyed by the NLSY79 between 1988 and 2000 reported to have suffered at least one occupational injury or illness. Among these injured workers, 37% experienced at least one additional injury over the same period. This last result is consistent with previous findings reported by the few studies on this topic. However, compared to other data sources that were limited to workers who had experienced at least one work related problems, the NLSY79 covers also workers who never experienced an injury; and for those who did, it allows identification of the first job, of the first injury, and of the first workers’ compensation claim. Given the possibility of exploiting information regarding individuals’ pre-injury early working lives, this paper also adds evidence to emerging literature on the impact of early occupations on future health.
Results are based on a 22 year timeframe for 6,855 individuals. A zero inflated negative binomial model is estimated to assess the effect of different pre injury individual and job characteristics on individual injury counts and on the count of workers’ compensation claims. Lower education, lower experience and tenure, unskilled occupation, and longer working hours are important determinants of recurrent injuries. The most interesting results, however, refer to the role played by preinjury individuals’ characteristics: early life in poverty, early exposure to dangerous jobs, and early health limitations are among the main determinants of higher counts of occupational injuries later in life. In addition, once a worker is injured, job accommodations reduce the recurrence of injuries and future workers’ compensation claims. Workers are also more likely to file additional workers’ compensation claims in states where workers’ compensation laws are more comprehensive. These results provide new evidence about the role played by the socioeconomic status of young people as an important determinant of their future occupational injuries. They also underline the importance of different regulations in affecting the experience injured workers have with the workers’ compensation system.
The 3rd Biennial Conference of the American Society of Health Economists took place at Cornell University.
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