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Research Statement

Research Statement (PDF)

Research Papers

  • Cheng Chen, Shin-Yi Chou, and Robert J. Thornton, "The effect of household technology on obesity and weight gain among Chinese female adults: Evidence from China's home appliances going to the countryside policy," under review at Journal of Human Capital. (wp version)

    Obesity has become a global epidemic in the past two decades, especially in developed countries. Researchers have speculated that technological advancement has played an important role in changing daily energy consumption and expenditure. However, identifying the effects of technological advancement on individual behaviors is challenging, as unobserved heterogeneity is correlated with both technology adoption and individual behaviors. In this paper, we exploit China’s “Home Appliances Going to the Countryside” policy (hereafter, HAGC) implemented in 2008 to study the effects of the spread of household electronic appliances in rural areas on weight outcomes and behaviors that affect energy intake and energy expenditure. The analysis is based on the China Health and Nutrition Survey (CHNS) panel data, which contain rich information on physical activity, time allocation, dietary habits and energy intake at the individual level, and detailed information on home appliances ownership at the household level. From both difference-in-differences (DID) and instrumental variable (IV) approaches, we find evidence that household technology increases the prevalence of obesity among female adults, due to more caloric intake and less caloric expenditure. More specifically, the policy-induced technological change increased the probability of obesity by 11% to 25% for females in rural areas. There is no significant impact on male weight outcomes. These results are quite robust across different specifications. (JEL Codes: I14, I15, O38)

  • Cheng Chen, Shin-Yi Chou, Hsienming Lien, and Jin-Tan Liu, "The long-term health effects of in utero and early childhood malaria exposure: Evidence from the malaria eradication program in Taiwan." (wp version)

    Taiwan became one of the countries that successfully controlled and eradicated malaria, after a DDT-based eradication campaign from 1952--1957. The sudden drop in malaria prevalence thus provides a unique opportunity for identifying the effects of malaria exposure, during in utero and childhood, on future outcomes. We exploit the geographical variation of malaria prevalence and of cohort exposures to estimate the effects of the malaria eradication program on educational attainment and on labor market and health outcomes. We find that the eradication program leads to higher educational attainment and better health outcomes for women: women are less likely to have heart disease, stroke, and some major illnesses. These results are robust across different specifications. We find mixed results for men. (JEL Codes: I15, I18, O53)

  • Cheng Chen, Shin-Yi Chou, and Lea Gimenez Duarte, "The inter-generational effects of the 1959--1961 Great Chinese Famine on children's anthropometric outcomes."

    According to Baker's fetal origins hypothesis, unfavorable shocks during in utero or early life can lead to negative health outcomes in later stages of life. If the impact of in utero environment is persistent, one may ask whether the environmental experience of one generation affects the offspring of subsequent generations. To explore this idea, we use the Great Chinese Famine of 1959--1961 to examine the effect of in utero exposure to famine on the health outcomes of offspring. In particular, we focus on the weight and height outcomes of children whose parents were exposed to famine while in utero. The CHNS has a panel data design and contain information that allows us to control for an individuals' socio-economic status (SES) as well as a rich set of information on dietary habits and nutritional intake. We are also able to assess whether parents with higher SES are able to buffer the negative impact of their own exposure to the famine on their children's anthropometric outcomes. Lastly, we examine whether the strength of the intergenerational link between parental exposure to the famine and the child outcome varies by the gender of the exposed parent or by the child's gender. We find that famine survivors have higher BMI, for both genders, compared to people who were not affected by the famine. Besides, daughters of famine survivors have lower z-score body mass index (BMI) than children of parent that were not exposed to the famine, but effect on sons are not significant. (JEL Codes: I15, I18, O53)

    Work in Progress

  • "Can we stop half the sky from falling? The effect of parental education on the sex ratio," with Lea Gimenez Duarte, Shin-Yi Chou, and Jin-Tan Liu

  • "Are sons causing more family stress? Evidence from China's one-child policy."