Interested in Behavioral Economics and Health?

The decision making of children, parents, and families can have a profound impact on the trajectory of an individual’s life. Understanding these behaviors can help change the way we think about and address the challenges that plague our healthcare system. How do people behave when it comes to making decisions about their health, and why do they behave a certain way? Are certain behaviors modifiable, and if so, what can we do to change them? If these are questions that you find interesting, check out the reading list below!

A New York Times best-selling author and professor, Dan Ariely explores the hidden yet foreseeable “forces that shape our decisions” in his book Predictably Irrational. Using common insights and experiments from his classroom, Ariely narrates each chapter with a question on how behaviors are often influenced, ranging from “The Power of Price: Why a 50-Cent Aspirin Can Do What a Penny Aspirin Can't” to “The Problem of Procrastination and Self-Control: Why We Can't Make Ourselves Do What We Want to Do”. This book may provide insight into motivation and behavior--for instance, why is it difficult for a child to take their medicine or exercise consistently? Watch an animated synopsis of the book here.

  • Nudge by Richard Thaler, Cass Sunstein

Nudge offers an individual and systemic look on daily decision-making, poor choices, and how this affects health outcomes and overall wellbeing. Nudge specifically focuses on how people can make easier choices if “choice architecture,” or the options given to people, is engineered with careful thought and precision. If you’re interested in large-scale behavior modification--for instance, how people can be “nudged” to purchase healthy food options at a grocery store--this book may be of interest to you! Watch a quick visual summary of the book here.

Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize winner in economics, uses his research to explain cognitive biases, prospect theory, and happiness in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow. He describes two types of thinking through the lens of his academic research: “System 1”, which is quick and intuitive, and “System 2”, which is slower yet more logical. Kahneman’s writing allows readers to recognize their own miscalculations in decision-making, and how common errors in human judgment can explain much of the world. If you are seeking to understand how people frame their thoughts and biases, such as with self-esteem or self-image, you may find this book interesting!

"Would requiring everyone to buy health insurance make us better off?"

“Why would giving consumers lots of choices in their health care plans be a bad idea?”

Author Douglas E. Hough discusses these hard-hitting topics, amongst others, in his book Irrationality in Health Care. Using a behavioral economics perspective, Dr. Hough considers why the U.S. spends so much on healthcare yet lags in health outcomes compared to other nations. With CHIP being reauthorized for another 6 years, this book may provide insight into why certain healthcare policies are important to implement, especially when it comes to children’s health. Watch a crash course of this book’s topic here.


Look out for an impending book review soon!