Our research group focuses broadly on the determinants of poverty, with a particular focus on the intersection of development economics and behavioral economics (the integration of economics and psychology). The current research agenda in the lab has a focus on a variety of different aspects of human capital which are both negatively correlated with living in poverty and which have the potential to influence economic outcomes as well as cognitive functioning and decision-making. For example, we are currently studying the impact of chronic sleep deprivation, pain, and nutrition on labor market outcomes, cognitive function, and broader decision-making such as savings choices.
The focus on cognitive as well as physical outcomes will aid in identifying not only the effects of pain, malnutrition, and sleep deprivation on income, but also pathways for potential feedback effects and ways to break cycles of poverty. For example, workers with chronic pain may work fewer hours and make constrained input choices as a result of discomfort. Decrements in cognitive function, such as those caused by sleep deprivation, might not only impede production decisions, but also expenditure decisions (e.g. food intake). Beyond these decisions, reduced cognitive function may prevent individuals from acquiring the relevant knowledge and devoting the necessary attention and cognitive resources to make optimal decisions. Taken together, these effects may create virtuous and vicious cycles and, hence, perpetuate inequality.
The research team comes from a highly interdisciplinary background including economics, public health, sleep research, medicine, and cognitive psychology and utilizes lab-in-the-field techniques. This approach allows us to carefully measure a variety of outcomes in individuals‟ natural work and living environments (e.g. earnings and consumption habits through high-frequency surveys) to improve external validity. It also allows us to precisely measure cognitive function, decision-making, and productivity in a controlled lab environment and to cleanly identify causal pathways.
PROJECT SUMMARY – Improved nutrition productivity and decision making
PROJECT SUMMARY – The impact of pain reduction on productivity cognitive function and decision making
PROJECT SUMMARY – Chronic sleep deprivation among the poor a lab and field approach in India