Economics; Nutritional Status; Obesity; Social Behavior
Extensive Research Description
Dr. Chen’s research fields involve health economics, development economics, labor economics, and applied econometrics. Specifically, Dr. Chen’s research focuses on three areas: 1) social interactions and networks; 2) early child development and 3) socioeconomic status competition and individual well-being.
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, extreme weather and air quality degradation. Recently, he has been engaging in a project on transportation development, migration and child health.
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.