Angela Fertig

Social Policy Research Scientist
social welfare policy; economic analysis; health care policy; housing policy and planning; income inequality and poverty

Angela Fertig is an economist and faculty member in the social policy area at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Her research focuses on the health of vulnerable populations (e.g., mothers and children, the homeless, the food insecure, and Medicaid enrollees) across the lifespan. Her research largely involves longitudinal data and econometric techniques in order to provide persuasive evidence about causal mechanisms. Her methodological expertise includes applied econometrics, longitudinal data analysis, time use data analysis, health care claims data analysis, survey research, survey validation methodology, ecological momentary assessment (EMA) data analysis, and economic evaluation/cost analysis. Her research can be described by the three main lines of inquiry described below.

1) The effect of poor health on economic status

Part of her research agenda aims to contribute to the literature on the connection between economic status and health. While the connection is strong and well established in the literature, the direction of causality is unclear. Dr. Fertig’s research makes a strong case that health has an important effect on economic status by providing evidence of the lasting effects of childhood health problems on adult economic and health status, and by examining the effects of mental health problems on spending, saving, and investing behaviors.

2) Health and housing

Dr. Fertig has also studied the health effects of living in public housing or experiencing homelessness among families with children. Her findings suggest that public housing and homelessness have only small health effects on mothers and children after adjustments are made for selection into these housing situations. These results suggest that the poor health of these families were largely present prior to experiencing public housing or homelessness. 

3) Policies/programs related to unhealthy behaviors

Finally, Dr. Fertig has contributed to our understanding of the relationship between policies/programs and unhealthy behaviors. Her research has found that a drinking age of 18 is associated with higher incidences of low birth weight and premature births among young mothers. Her research suggests that lenient drinking laws generate poor birth outcomes in part because they increase the number of unplanned pregnancies. She has also studied the importance of adverse selection into prenatal smoking when estimating the effect of prenatal smoking on birth outcomes. Her findings suggest that selection could explain as much as 50% of the association between smoking and birth outcomes. More recently, Dr. Fertig has begun studying eating behaviors of families and strategies to improve eating habits. In one study, she analyzed longitudinal data of multiple meals from a sample of families and provided the first convincing evidence that programs or interventions encouraging home-cooked meals may improve diet quality, as most other research on the topic has been cross-sectional.  

Dr. Fertig received her PhD in Economics from Brown University and her BA in International Relations from Stanford University. She conducted postdoctoral research at Princeton University and has previously held faculty positions at the University of Georgia (in the Schools of Public Affairs and Public Health) and Indiana University (in the economics department).