Assistant Professor of Economics
NYU Stern School of Business
At Poets&Quants, we appreciate when business school professors dig into topics outside of traditional business. That’s what New York University’s Michael Dickstein does through his research focusing on healthcare markets.
“I study the economics of health care markets. Lately, I have focused my empirical work on the design of health insurance marketplaces created under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare),” Dickstein says of his research. “Along with co-authors, I consider policies to re-design the market in ways that might lead to lower premiums and encourage greater take-up of insurance. One unexpected lesson we learned is that consumers often cycle in and out of private insurance, with the potential for both positive and negative effects on the market.”
It’s that impactful research and the work Dickstein does with students that put him securely on this year’s list of the world’s 40 best business school professors under 40.
Current age: 38
At current institution since what year? 2015
Education: Ph.D. in Business Economics, Harvard University; B.S. Applied Economics, Cornell University
List of MBA courses you currently teach:
Healthcare Markets (MBA elective)
TELL US ABOUT LIFE AS A BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSOR
I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I designed my first research project as an undergraduate. I studied models of airline competition, partly out of a childhood/ongoing fascination with plane travel. It felt exciting to use data to understand the behavior of economic actors and to simulate the effects of new government regulations. I decided to pursue a career where I could continue to conduct research and teach others about my findings.
What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it?
I study the economics of health care markets. Lately, I have focused my empirical work on the design of health insurance marketplaces created under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Along with co-authors, I consider policies to re-design the market in ways that might lead to lower premiums and encourage greater take-up of insurance. One unexpected lesson we learned is that consumers often cycle in and out of private insurance, with the potential for both positive and negative effects on the market.
If I weren’t a business school professor… Realistically, I would like to work on health policy in the White House. In another world, I would be a New Yorker cartoonist with a tiny following.
What do you think makes you stand out as a professor?
I hope my passion for data. The health economics community is extraordinarily creative; I spend a lot of time reading the latest research to bring key insights into the classroom.
One word that describes my first time teaching: Intimidating
Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: It’s ok to “nerd out” about your class material. And the most successful class discussions result from a team effort—engaging students with experience in an industry, inviting guest lecturers, and listening to feedback from students and co-instructors.
Professor I most admire and why: My Ph.D. advisors, Ariel Pakes, Guido Imbens, David Cutler, and Dennis Yao. All provided me helpful training as I developed my economic intuition and research agenda. Ariel Pakes in particular has remained an important mentor even years after I completed my graduate studies.
TEACHING MBA STUDENTS
What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?
The passion and opinions. I never worry about a lack of participation.
What is most challenging?
Keeping the discussion in line with the day’s topic. When students are really engaged, the conversation can move in a lot of directions.
In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Inquisitive
In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Inflexible
When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… I hope they’d view my grading as fair. But my focus in the MBA classroom is on helping students explore new topics and learn new skills they’ll be able to apply in their careers. Grades are less of an emphasis.
LIFE OUTSIDE OF THE CLASSROOM
What are your hobbies?
I enjoy swimming, hiking, and drawing. In the pandemic, I’ve also started urban farming.
How will you spend your summer?
Working on my research projects, attending (virtual) conferences, and mixing in some vacation time with family and friends.
Favorite place(s) to vacation: Belgrade Lakes, Maine
Favorite book(s): I read a lot of history, particularly biographies. Most recently, I’ve been reading about James Garfield and Ulysses Grant.
What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much?
In the pandemic, my movie tastes have skewed to comedies and 80s/90s nostalgia. I’ve watched “Clue” and “Groundhog Day” more than once.
What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why?
My music tastes are pretty eclectic. I follow NPR’s Tiny Desk concerts for new music.
THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS
If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… Selfishly, I would like to see more economics—and economics applied to data analysis—in coursework. Data is a key strategic asset in many industries; training students to think deeply about how to use data to design incentives or set prices, for example, will increasingly be a central element of business education. Stern is already emphasizing data and business analytics, and I’m excited to see that focus continue.
In my opinion, companies, and organizations today need to do a better job at… Hiring and mentoring a diverse workforce is a largely unmet but extremely worthwhile goal.
I’m grateful for… Family, friends, and staying healthy.
Faculty, students, alumni, and/or administrators say:
“Michael is a star researcher and a star teacher. As a researcher, he has become one of the world’s leaders in the economics of the healthcare sector. As a teacher, he’s helped multiple undergraduate and MBA students understand and appreciate difficult to understand material. A sample of comments from undergraduate students who have taken Michael’s microeconomics course: – Professor Dickstein is amazing. He is great at explaining and teaching. Best Professor I have ever had. – I loved attending microeconomics class, mainly because the professor made them really interesting and valuable. – He’s very respectful and friendly, easy to approach. A sample of comments from MBA students who have taken Michael’s health care markets course: – It was obvious that the Professor had extensive knowledge across the healthcare industry. You could really tell that Professor Dickstein loves the material and wants his students to learn and do well. His excitement rubbed off on the students and made for very interesting classes and I really appreciated the entire course. I got a lot out of it. – Literally the perfect healthcare economics course.”
“Michael Dickstein designed and teaches Stern’s MBA course on “Healthcare Markets”, a cornerstone course for the MBA specialization in healthcare. Over the last three years, the course overall has received stellar evaluations: scores of 6.8/7, 4.7/5, and 4.9/5, with instructor-specific ratings of 6.8/7, 5.0/5, and 4.9/5. Students have praised his “broad and profound knowledge base”, his “ability to make each topic (even those that are exceptionally complicated to explain) palatable and digestible”, and the way in which he “created a learning environment where everyone, regardless of his/her knowledge set or background, was not only welcome but encouraged to bring new points of view forward”. He brings a diverse roster of speakers to Stern, including Pfizer’s senior director of global pricing, VP of data science at Aetna-CVS, and senior leadership of NYU Langone Hospital. Indeed, it is unsurprising that Stern students have asked him to continue serving as the faculty advisor to the Stern Healthcare Association, and that he has been nominated for Stern’s Distinguished Teaching Award. As with many of the best Stern faculty, Michael’s teaching is deeply informed by his research: he is one of the leading young scholars in healthcare economics. He has published careful work in top journals on regulatory capture by industry in Medicare pricing and on how market size and composition affects health care premiums. His ongoing research examines the take-up and lapsing of insurance coverage by consumers; competition in private health insurance; and the dynamics of patient-physician decision-making. In sum, Michael Dickstein is a first-rate scholar and teacher; I have learned a great deal from him as a colleague and and we are incredibly lucky to have him at Stern.”