Research Interests

In the United States and around the world, non-profits, governments and international agencies use a variety of programs to tackle important problems. Yet these programs are often less successful than they could be. More often than not, this is because people do not behave the way those designing them expect. Sometimes a perfectly good product sinks without a trace; sometimes a really useful program is not taken up; and so on.

Many people, myself included, believe that this is because many programs are built on a flawed understanding of human behavior. The assumptions we make—sometimes without realizing—when we design programs do not match actual psychology. Our intuitions—and those in economic models—overlook many of the important things that make people tick. 

This is where behavioral economics can help. Behavioral economics provides a better way to understanding human behavior.  Better understanding leads to better diagnosis, which in turn leads to better-designed solutions to problems. You can read more about some of these ideas herehere, and here.

To put these ideas into practice, I have co-founded a non-profit called ideas42, which takes behavioral economics’ sophisticated understanding of human behavior and puts it to work to design better ways to tackle problems in areas ranging from consumer finance to international development.

Another initiative with which I am involved is the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). J-PAL was established in 2003 as a research center at the Economics Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Since then, it has grown into a global network of researchers who use randomized evaluations to answer critical policy questions in the fight against poverty.

Selected Evaluations conducted by J-PAL:

Predicting Loan Repayment by Rural Households in India