This summer, I worked with Heather Schofield from the Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics on a study based in Chennai, India that explores the relationship between sleep deprivation and cognitive function and decision-making. Given that chronic sleep deprivation is a common aspect of life in poverty, it is important to understand its effects on how humans develop their cognitive function. In this project, we tracked low-skilled workers’ sleep hours for 30 days in a random controlled experiment and measured the effects of a number of sleep-promoting interventions. These interventions that were applied included paying subjects for sleeping longer, and providing curtains, ear plugs, mattresses, and more. In the project, we then used a number of economic decision-making tasks and productivity tasks to measure how sleep interventions improve one’s cognitive function and affect decision-making.
In my research, I learned a wide range of skills. First, I learned how random controlled experiments are designed. This process is fascinating and allows us to extract causal relationships from the messy real world. I also learned about the grant writing and application process, which is a vital process to any academic research. I learned how to better analyze data in R and STATA, and I also learned how to read through economics papers and assess their data efficiently.
The experience I gained this summer was invaluable and it has given me a better understanding of what academic economics research looks like. While I have loved my economics classes at Penn, this experience has exposed me to a different side of economics that reinvigorated my passion and interest in the field.