Bettina SiflingerAssistant Professor at the Department of Econometrics and Operations Research
“My research aims at obtaining new insights into causes and consequences of individual decision-making.”
What is the main goal of your research?
My primary research interests are concentrated in the fields of health and labor economics. I am addressing questions that aim at understanding how individual behavior is linked to unemployment, mental health outcomes or child health. To this end, I combine economic models of individual decision making and advanced econometric methods. In most of my projects, I work with rich administrative data sets.
How does your research contribute to societal problems?
For instance, in one of my projects I investigate how birth weight of children is determined by health investment decisions of mothers in different trimesters during pregnancy. To address this question, I analyze an administrative data set from Sweden, which contains detailed health records of mothers and children before, during and after pregnancy. I use an economic model of maternal decision making for the production of child health at birth. I estimate this model using an econometric methodology that considers time-varying maternal health and endogenous investment decisions.
From a policy perspective, a good understanding is needed of how initial health capital is formed, what role prenatal care plays, and what the relative importance of family background and maternal health conditions is in producing health development. This knowledge can prove useful for the design, implementation and targeting of future interventions for mothers and families.
This project is an example of how my research contributes to societal problems. By combining advanced econometric methods, economic theory and high quality data, my research aims at obtaining new insights into causes and consequences of individual decision-making. By knowing about these processes, policy makers can use such results to design policies that influence individual decisions, reducing inequality and improving individual well-being.
What is your main motive?
I am inherently interested in understanding why people make particular decisions, how these decisions determine individual outcomes, and what can be done to improve these outcomes. Econometrics helps to deepen this understanding and to quantify effects of interest when applied to data.
Who is your role model?
I do not have a particular role model but there are a couple of researchers, which I admire. One person is Janet Currie who was one of the first economists who investigated the idea that the health during childhood crucially determines later life success. Another person is James Heckman, not just, because he is a Nobel prize laureate. Rather, he is an economist who developed econometric methods to answer actual and pressing questions in economics, including applications such as female labor supply and child development. Besides, I am inspired by and learned from many other junior and senior researchers, including my teachers and my colleagues at the EOR department, about what makes up a good applied econometrician.