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Essays on Behavior and Infectious Disease

  • Author(s): Carpenter, Anne Laura
  • Advisor(s): McBride, Michael T
  • et al.
Abstract

Although individuals have the potential to significantly impact the magnitude of epidemics, understanding individual responses to disease remains relatively understudied. One problem with studying behavioral responses to disease is obtaining individual level data on actions taken to protect against disease prior to, during, and after an outbreak. Using an evolutionary game with the replicator dynamic, I endogenize the decision to treat water in an epidemiological model of cholera. I calibrate the model to generate aggregate predictions for the cholera epidemic magnitude and the share of the population treating their water during the 2008-2009 Zimbabwe cholera epidemic. I show that the model captures both the 2008-2009 outbreak magnitude and the share of the population treating their water after the outbreak. To examine individual level disease prevention decisions, I use this model to simulate a disease environment in an economics laboratory experiment using students as human subjects. In the experiment, subjects are told that an infectious disease has been discovered in the environment. Subjects must decide whether to invest in a disease prevention technology. Subjects that choose to invest in the disease prevention technology are fully protected against infection. Subjects that choose not to invest in the disease prevention technology are at risk of infection. The payoffs from the experiment are taken from the epidemiological model of cholera with endogenous water treatment. I compare the model predictions with observed experimental data. In this way, I generate the individual level panel data necessary to explore the impact of prevention costs, outbreak information, and social exclusion costs on the probability of investing in disease prevention.

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