Bio

I am a quantitative researcher and health economist at the University of Pennsylvania, with expertise applying rigorous econometric techniques to applied policy questions. I focus on postsecondary education, K-12 education, health economics, and health services research. My substantive research has also included such topics as sports analytics, immigration, child development, stratification, and mobility.

I work at the Consortium for Policy Research in Education at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. I completed my postdoctoral work at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. I received my Ph.D. and a Master’s in Applied Math and Statistics from Johns Hopkins University, where I was an Institute of Education Sciences predoctoral fellow. I also hold a Master’s degree from the University of Oxford and a B.A. in History and American Culture Studies from Washington University in St. Louis.

My two areas of substantive expertise are in the postsecondary education and health fields. In the postsecondary space, I focus on questions of access, persistence, debt, and mobility for minority and low-income populations. Current work includes research on income mobility at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving Institutions, assessing patterns of college savings behavior, evaluating the impact of the Pennsylvania Treasury’s Keystone Scholars Program, examining how a substantive redefining of Hispanic Serving Institutions influences Hispanics’ application and enrollment decisions, and experimental work on student loan debt. Additionally, at CPRE I create the experimental and non-experimental research designs and lead the quantitative analyses of many education projects across the pre-K-12 spectrum, including a 15,000 student 60-school randomized control trial of a teacher professional development in mathematics. In addition to this focus, I also study questions of methodological importance. In one project,  I conduct a randomized behavioral insight study that examines the impact of various underlying psychological appeals on teachers’ survey response.

My health research has focused on the influence of state and federal regulatory changes on supply-side behavior as well as healthcare access and utilization for low-income, minority, and mental health populations. My forthcoming solo-authored article in Health Economics Policy & Law,  “Coverage Mandates and Market Dynamics: Employer, Insurer, and Patient Responses to Parity Laws,” uses claims-level private-insurer data to examine the effect of mental health utilization on insurer and employer behavior and the impact on consumer utilization. My article, “Spanish-Speaking Immigrants’ Access to Safety Net Providers and Translation Services Across Traditional and Emerging U.S. Destinations,” published in Milbank Quarterly, uses original experimental audit data and reduced-form methods to explore inequality in the ability for Spanish-speakers with limited English proficiency (LEP) to obtain primary care appointments across traditional and emerging Hispanic destinations. My article in Psychiatric Services investigates the decline in healthcare utilization of young adults with autism spectrum disorder during the transition from the pediatric to the adult health care system. On another project, I exploit variation in the passage of state charity care regulations to examine the behavioral responses of non-profit hospitals. This work additionally examines the influence of market level factors on non-profit hospitals charity care levels. In an ongoing follow-up study, I pair data from the five-year zip-code tabulation area estimates of the American Community Survey with data from the American Hospital Association to examine which neighborhood factors influence the amount of care non-profit hospitals provide to low-income individuals. I have also conducted research on the size and breadth of insurance networks offered through the Federally-facilitated and State-based Marketplaces, including how state-variation in network adequacy requirements influences access to primary care and pediatric providers across urban, suburban, and rural geographies. Research based off of this work was published in Pediatrics.

Previously, I was an economist at Picwell, a health insurance and health economics startup. My work focused on applying economic and sociological theory to the health insurance and consumer behavior space, including investigating a consumer’s willingness to pay to retain a preferred provider in-network, the utility value of healthcare networks, and an individual’s health-related risk aversion.

In my spare time I enjoy applying these methods to quantitative sports and politics research. In February 2016 I published the paper “A Historical Tracking of Parity in Baseball” in the journal ChanceI also had a blog piece on the 2016 election posted to the site PredictWise.

My Master’s in Applied Math and Statistics exhibits my expertise in econometric techniques. My thesis for this degree examined the validity of commonly used standard error techniques in count data modeling through the use of a parametric bootstrap and Monte Carlo simulation. In addition, I have formal training in experimental and quasi-experimental design, causal inference, discrete choice modeling, stochastic processes, hierarchical linear models, panel data, mediation analysis, and event history analysis.

I also have experience with international development research.  I completed a project in Zambia that focuses on improving food and economic security as part of USAID’s Feed the Future Initiative and have served as a special advisor to the Oxford Department of International Development’s Humanitarian Innovation Project on refugee livelihood innovations in Uganda.

When not focusing on social science, I enjoy reading plays, training for triathlons, and spoiling my young son and four nephews.

I can be reached at robert.nathenson@gmail.com.

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