How might behavioral economics help us to better understand the relationship between economic opportunities and health behaviors and outcomes?
Economic opportunity may shape health behavior in complex ways. Having a pathway to future socioeconomic advancement may raise the returns to investing in one's own health. Less stress and fewer worries about one's future may also free up bandwidth for engaging in health activities. Insights from behavioral economics can complement those from classical economics in understanding these different pathways.
Describe your main research interests. How do behavioral principles connect with your current work ?
My research thus far has examined the effect of social programs - like college affirmative action or immigration reforms - that conceivably change real or perceived future economic opportunities. These projects have yielded some interesting findings, but a number of questions remain: what are the underlying mechanisms? Is it possible to design interventions that nudge healthy behaviors by appealing to available socioeconomic opportunities? These are directions I would like to pursue.
What role has mentorship played in your career?
My mentors have always told me to focus on the big picture - how is the research I am doing useful to patients or public policy? They've told me that part of thinking that way involves being agnostic about the different levers one can pull to affect change and improve health. Productive approaches can draw from a number of disciplines - and the work here at Penn has repeatedly demonstrated the effectiveness of behavioral economics approaches as part of this toolkit.