Three Wisconsin School of Business faculty members shared their cross-disciplinary expertise this year during the Household Finance Research Seminar Series. On April 13, Anita Mukherjee, assistant professor of risk and insurance and the Michael E. Lehman Distinguished Chair for Inspired Learning in Business, presented her research on moral hazard and opioid abuse.
Sponsored by the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Center for Financial Security, the seminar series gives graduate students, junior faculty, and outside speakers the opportunity to present works-in-progress and receive feedback on research areas relating to household finance. The presentations are held weekly during the fall and spring and bring together faculty expertise from diverse disciplines across campus including sociology, economics, marketing, public health, and engineering, among many others.
The Center for Financial Security fosters cross-disciplinary collaboration in financial security areas such as credit, debt management, financial coaching, and economic determinants of health, and maintains more than 60 faculty affiliates and fellows across the UW–Madison campus and other institutions.
Past WSB faculty guest speakers in the research seminar series have included Sarada, assistant professor of management and human resources, on the topic of wealth and mobility, and Justin Sydnor, associate professor and the Leslie P. Schultz Professor in Risk Management and Insurance, on simplifying health insurance.
Mukherjee’s research looks at whether greater access to Naloxone, a medication used to reverse drug overdoses, has created unintended consequences, such as a possible increase in crime.
Naloxone, commonly known by the brand name Narcan, is often used by heroin users to block an overdose already in progress, markedly decreasing the risk of death. There is a concern that access to this life-saving innovation can encourage riskier behaviors regarding opioid abuse, however, suggesting that Naloxone access may be most beneficial when complemented with other interventions.
“The gap that our research is trying to fill is to understand whether there can be moral hazard with regard to Naloxone access,” Mukherjee says.
“Naloxone access provides some insurance against the catastrophic risk of death from opioid overdose.”
Many states in the U.S. are struggling with how to handle the surge in illegal opioid use. Some of the first Naloxone access laws appeared around 2012, Mukherjee says.
Together with co-author Jennifer Doleac, an assistant professor at the University of Virginia, Mukherjee pulled crime data from the National Incident-Based Reporting System, a database that collects information incident-by-incident from law enforcement jurisdictions across 35 states.
Mukherjee and Doleac found that the data suggested a 50% increase in opioid-related crimes in the regions where Naloxone access laws were passed.
“How much of the increase in crime can be explained by reductions in mortality?” Mukherjee asks, adding that it’s just one of the many questions she hopes to continue to explore in the study.