Principal Investigator


Global Engagement Fund (University of Pennsylvania); Leonard Davis Institute (University of Pennsylvania)

The Economic and Psychological Effects of Chronic Pain among Low-income Workers

Co-Investigator with: Emma Dean, Sendhil Mullainathan, Frank Schilbach, and Anuj Shah

Physical pain is highly prevalent among the poor in developing countries and may have significant and widespread impacts on these individuals’ lives via a number of channels. However, despite its potential importance both in public health and economic terms, chronic physical pain has been largely overlooked in existing academic development studies and policy-making. The proposed project will combine insights from medicine, economics, and cognitive psychology to both improve the measurement of pain itself and take the first steps in understanding the broader causal impact of physical pain on the lives of the poor via a randomized controlled trial (RCT) in which 450 low-income women in Chennai, India, will be randomly assigned to one of three treatment arms: 600 mg of over-the-counter pain medication, a placebo pill, or no medication (pure control). The research will provide some of the first data on pain levels in the developing world, quantify the causal impact of pain on previously unstudied outcomes including productivity and cognitive function, and open a new line of inquiry in economics studying the role of pain in the lives of the poor.