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Date and Time: Thursday 2 February 2023, 3:00 pm (UK GMT)

Venue: MS Teams/Hybrid (Richard Doll Building, L1 Main Meeting Room)

To Join: This is a free event, which will be taking place both in-person and online via Zoom/Microsoft Teams. To register your interest in attending this talk please click HERE


In recent decades, a so-called ‘Credibility Revolution’ has taken microeconomics by storm, transforming economists’ research methodologies and means of acquiring data, while also upending status hierarchies within the discipline. In the U.S., this has been especially true for fields such as health economics, in which newly available experimental and administrative data have resulted in a deluge of randomized controlled trials and natural experiments based on policy reforms. Drawing on a comprehensive analysis of the relationship between economics and social policy, this presentation will contextualize the so-called ‘Credibility Revolution’ with a more nuanced historical account of the trajectory embarked upon by health economists in the U.S. Despite claims that health economics has only become a credible empirical enterprise in the last 2-3 decades, the talk will shed light on the centrality of earlier, less theoretically sophisticated modes of empirical analysis to the recent history of health economics. Given that much of the latest research in health economics is of considerable relevance to decisionmakers in both policy settings and the private sector, this has implications for understanding both the history of health economics as well as the broader influence of economics as a form of technical expertise. The talk will conclude with some reflections on the similarities between health economics and comparable fields such as the economics of education, as well as on the difference between the role of health economics in the U.S. vs. countries with universal healthcare systems.


Zachary Griffen is a Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology and Instructor at the UCLA Institute for Society and Genetics. As a sociologist of expertise, his work elucidates the influence of quantification processes on social policy in the United States. His book project, Expertise and the Enigma of Policy Influence: How Interventions in Healthcare and Education Changed Economics, 1950-2022, is the first comprehensive, comparative history of the role economists have played in U.S. healthcare and education policy. Research for this project on health economics excavates the field’s theoretical and practical origins in the mid-twentieth century, traces the rise of new analytic techniques such as cost-effectiveness analysis, and documents the significance of the ‘Credibility Revolution’ in applied microeconomics from its origins in field experiments like the RAND Health Insurance Experiment to the latest quasi-experimental methods for establishing causal inference.