8 Books That Started It All

Children's Health Incentives Lab was formed to improve children's health using behavioral economics and design. From memoirs to studies, these books have given us insight on human behavior and inspired us to search for ways we can nurture healthy behavior in children. Take a peak at some of our staff's favorite books on behavioral economics and social change (in no particular order).


1. Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

Dan Ariely, professor of psychology and behavioral economics, explains how humans are not rational decision-makers. His research in behavioral economics shows we make predictable, systematic decisions instead. You can also hear Ariely explain his research in his TED Talk here:


2. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

New York Times reporter, Charles Duhigg, explains the science of habits with fascinating narratives to support his arguments. Stories from individuals, corporations, sports teams, and hospitals (just to name a few) show the effects of ingrained habits and how they can be change to achieve desired results. He also includes positive and uplifting methods on how we can create positive change in our own lives.

3. Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler

This book is a great introduction to “choice architecture,” professors Thaler and Sunstein explain how people make decisions and how better choices can be made through behavioral science and economics.

4. The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality by Angus Deaton

Angus Deaton, professor at the Woodrow Wilson School and the Economics Department at Princeton University, explains how development has left inequality gaps in different countries. His research describes the effects of international development focusing on countries’ economies, health, and well-being.

5. One Day, All Children…: The Unlikely Triumph of Teach For America and What I Learned Along The Way by Wendy Kopp

We describe this as a “Lean In” equivalent for college seniors. Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach For America, shares why she started her nonprofit organization. Find out how Teach For America gave children in low-income communities academic opportunities they would not have difficulty receiving otherwise.

6. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

Economics professor, Steven Levitt, and journalist, Stephen Dubner, answer everyday questions with an economist’s lens. This is a great vacation-reading, cocktail-party-conversation-starter book.

7. Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance by Atul Gawande

Atul Gawande gives readers an inside look at how doctors’ struggle to do well with limited resources, abilities, and energy.

8. Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir

Professors Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir explain why and how people deal with scarcity in their lives. Using behavioral science and economics, they discuss ways we can make better decisions using "slack." Here's the New York Times article explaining their studies.