Xi Chen, PhD

Assistant Professor of Public Health (Health Policy) and in the Institute for Social and Policy Studies; Affiliated Faculty, Department of Economics; Research Fellow, IZA and The Macmillan Center

Research Interests

Aging; Air Pollution; Child; Cognition; Economics; Pensions; Social Behavior; Climate Change; Social Networking

Public Health Interests

Aging; Air Pollution; Child health; Developing Countries (health); Fetal/Infant Development; Global Health; Health behavior; Health Economics; Nutrition; Obesity; Smoking/Tobacco Control; Social inequalities; Social networks

Research Organizations

School of Public Health: Global Health Concentration

Research Summary

Dr. Chen’s research fields involve health economics, development economics, labor economics, and applied econometrics. Specifically, Dr. Chen’s research focuses on the areas of fetal and early child development, aging and pension policy, climate change, social network interactions, and happiness and mental well-being.

Extensive Research Description

Dr. Chen’s research on social interactions and networks explores how social network structures have been evolving, shaping stigmatized behavior vulnerable to health shocks, driving gifts and festival spending escalation, squeezing basic food consumption, and affecting early child health via in utero exposure to frequent ceremonies. This research offers a more plausible explanation to the Deaton food puzzle as to why nutritional status of the poor tends to be stagnant amid rapid income growth in developing countries. It questions conventional anti-poverty programs that do not fully understand social customs. Meanwhile, Dr. Chen attempts to understand information diffusion and addictive behavior (such as tobacco use and problem drinking) in the networks.

In utero and children under age five are considered a critical period for human development. Regardless of whether catch-up growth is ultimately achieved, in utero exposures to malnutrition adversely affect health outcomes in later life. Dr. Chen’s research on early child development examines in utero exposures to income shocks and climate change. Chen evaluates the impact of extreme temperatures and air quality degradation in the last few decades on birth outcomes, especially birth defects. Chen also examines the unintended impact of winter heating policy in China on fetal growth. Dr. Chen's recent research agenda on climate change includes its impact on cognitive development.

Dr. Chen’s research on socioeconomic status competition and individual well-being proposes inequality measures that incorporate the idea of relative deprivation that better explains human behavior and health outcomes. He examines the channels through which relative deprivation affects health behavior and outcomes, happiness and other subjective well-being. He relates existing empirical findings to policy discourse and discusses implications on poverty alleviation and other development policies. He also generalizes the idea of relative deprivation to examine how men’s pressure to get married in the marriage market with highly skewed sex ratios is associated with parental health-compromising behavior.

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Contact Info

Xi Chen, PhD
Office Location
Laboratory of Epidemiology and Public Health
60 College Street, Ste 301

New Haven, CT 06510
Mailing Address
Epidemiology & Public Health
PO BOX 208034

New Haven, CT 06520-8034