Xi Chen Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Public Health (Health Policy) and of Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Biographical Info

Dr. Chen’s research fields involve health economics, development economics, labor economics, and applied econometrics. Specifically, his 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.

Dr. Chen is currently engaging in developing and implementing a longitudinal survey in rural western China with unique social network data collection. Building upon the existing literature, his research also relies on long-term field observations and primary data collection experiences. Dr. Chen has been a consultant for United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER) and Cornell Institute for Social and Economic Research (CISER), and an affiliate of Cornell Population Center (CPC) and Cornell Institute for the Social Sciences (ISS).

International Activity

  • Birth Spacing and Child Health
    Jakarta, Indonesia   (2012)
    This collaborative project investigates a causal connection between birth spacing and broad dimensions of child and maternal health status and dynamics using four waves of Indonesia Family Life Survey (IFLS).
  • New Approaches to Measuring Poverty and Vulnerability
    China; Helsinki, Finland   (2011)
    Working with researchers from United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER), this project seeks innovative ways to measuring poverty and vulnerability that contribute to poverty and behavioral Economics.
  • Social Network Data Collection
    Anshun, China   (2009)
    Working with researchers from International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, I'm designing and implementing a unique social network data collection in the poorest Guizhou province in China. The detailed network collection involves multiple dimensions.
  • Poverty and Public Investment (2004-)
    Guiyang, China   (2004)
    Working together with researchers from International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, I have been engaging in developing and implementing a census-type longitudinal household and individual survey in rural western China. The initial goal of the project was to investigate the role played by government investment in public infrastructure on poverty alleviation. The project has been expended to all major aspects of daily life among the poor, including farm and off-farm production, migration, consumption and other family activities, health dynamics, nutrition, and education. We have finished four waves of data collection.

Education & Training

Nanjing Agricultural University (2007)
Cornell University (2012)

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