David Beheshti

PhD Candidate

University of Texas at Austin

Department of Economics

2225 Speedway, Austin, TX 78712


I am a PhD candidate in economics at the University of Texas at Austin. My research lies in the areas of health economics, public finance, and labor economics. My current research focuses on the impact of opioids on the labor market. I am on the job market and will be available for interviews at the 2020 ASSA meetings in San Diego.


Health Economics, Public Finance, Labor Economics, Applied Microeconomics

Expected Graduation Date:

May 2020

Dissertation Committee:

Marika Cabral (Primary): marika.cabral@austin.utexas.edu

Michael Geruso: mike.geruso@austin.utexas.edu

Richard Murphy: richard.murphy@austin.utexas.edu

Working Papers

Press Coverage: Marginal Revolution

The onset of the opioid crisis coincided with the beginning of nearly 15 years of declining labor force participation in the US. Furthermore, the areas most affected by the crisis have generally experienced the worst deteriorations in labor market conditions. Despite these time series and cross-sectional correlations, there is little agreement on the causal effect of opioids on labor market outcomes. I provide new evidence on this question by leveraging a natural experiment which sharply decreased the supply of hydrocodone, one of the most commonly prescribed opioids in the US. I identify the causal impact of this decrease by exploiting pre-existing variation in the extent to which different types of opioids were prescribed across geographies to compare areas more and less exposed to the treatment over time. I find that areas with larger reductions in opioid prescribing experienced relative improvements in employment-to-population ratios, driven primarily by an increase in labor force participation. The regression estimates indicate that a 10 percent decrease in hydrocodone prescriptions increased the employment-to-population ratio by about 0.7 percent. These findings suggest that policies which reduce opioid misuse may also have positive spillovers on the labor market.

"Cross-State Spillovers from Medical Marijuana Laws"

Previous research on medical marijuana laws (MMLs) has assumed that the effects of MMLs are only present in the states that adopt them. However, anecdotal evidence from politicians and law enforcement officials suggests that MMLs lead to increases in drug-related activity in neighboring states. In this paper I utilize a difference-in-differences strategy to test whether the effects from MMLs spill over across state lines. Using drug rehabilitation admissions data from the Treatment Episode Data Set, I present indirect evidence that MMLs do affect nearby states. Most importantly, I find a substantial reduction in opioid abuse in states which border MML states, suggesting substitution away from prescription opioids and heroin toward marijuana.

peer-reviewed Publications

The US is currently in the midst of the worst drug overdose epidemic in its history, with nearly 64,000 drug overdose deaths in 2016. In response, pharmaceutical companies have begun introducing abuse-deterrent painkillers, pills with properties that make the drug more difficult to misuse. The first such painkiller, a reformulated version of OxyContin, was released in 2010. Previous research has found no net effect on opioid mortality, with users substituting away from OxyContin toward heroin. This paper explores health effects of the reformulation beyond mortality. Exploiting variation across states in OxyContin misuse prior to the reformulation, I find large relative increases in the spread of hepatitis B and C in states most likely to be affected by the reformulation. In aggregate, the estimates suggest that absent the reformulation we would have observed between 66-75% fewer cases of hepatitis C and 46-60% fewer cases of hepatitis B. I document further evidence that points to the likely cause of these effects: the reformulation led individuals to substitute from OxyContin to heroin, which is substantially more likely to be injected, increasing exposure to blood-borne diseases.