The Effect of Superstition on Health: Evidence from the Taiwanese Ghost Month

46 Pages Posted: 28 Jan 2019

See all articles by Martin Halla

Martin Halla

Johannes Kepler University Linz - Department of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Chia-Lun Liu

Lehigh University

Jin‐Tan Liu

National Taiwan University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Abstract

Superstition is a widespread phenomenon. We empirically examine its impact on health-related behavior and health outcomes. We study the case of the Taiwanese Ghost month. During this period, which is believed to increase the likelihood of bad outcomes, we observe substantial adaptions in health-related behavior. Our identification exploits idiosyncratic variation in the timing of the Ghost Month across Gregorian calendar years. Using high-quality administrative data, we document for the period of the Ghost Months reductions in mortality, hospital admissions, and births. While the effect on mortality is a quantum effect, the latter two effects reflect changes in the timing of events. Efficient public health policy should account for emotional and cultural factors.

Keywords: superstition, false beliefs, health, risky activities, health-care utilization, mortality, fertility, birth outcomes

JEL Classification: I12, D83, D91, Z12

Suggested Citation

Halla, Martin and Liu, Chia-Lun and Liu, Jin-Tan, The Effect of Superstition on Health: Evidence from the Taiwanese Ghost Month. IZA Discussion Paper No. 12066. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3323180

Martin Halla (Contact Author)

Johannes Kepler University Linz - Department of Economics ( email )

Altenbergerstrasse 69
A-4040 Linz, 4040
Austria

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Chia-Lun Liu

Lehigh University

621 Taylor Street
Bethlehem, PA 18015
United States

Jin-Tan Liu

National Taiwan University - Department of Economics ( email )

21 Hsu-Chow Road
Taipei, 10020
Taiwan

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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