Stanford Health Policy’s Maya Rossin-Slater, PhD, has been honored with the Elaine Bennett Research Prize from the American Economic Association for her groundbreaking research that examines the impacts of public policies and other factors on families and children.
The associate professor of health policy and senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research also identifies what works to improve the outcomes of disadvantaged populations and to reduce socioeconomic inequalities and health disparities.
“Her studies have analyzed social safety net programs, family leave policies, environmental factors, stress, and gun violence. Her research addresses questions of critical policy importance with clever research designs and novel identification strategies, careful econometric work using high-quality administrative data, and analysis grounded in economic theory,” the AEA said in a news release announcing the annual award that recognizes outstanding research in any field of economics by a woman within a decade of earning her PhD.
In her research, Rossin-Slater has analyzed the effects of various US social safety net programs — including Food Stamps, WIC, and Medicaid — on early childhood and later life health and economic success. She is also a leading expert on paid family leave policies, with multiple studies documenting their benefits for workers and their families and the limited burdens they impose on employers.
“The award is well-deserved recognition for the extraordinary work that Maya has done,” said Douglas K. Owens, chair of the Department of Health Policy in the Stanford School of Medicine.
Rossin-Slater has examined the long-term effects of early-life exposure to environmental factors including air pollution and extreme heat, as well as the impacts of school shootings on youth well-being.
“Her work on school shootings has shown the lasting adverse impacts of these events on the mental health, educational, and later economic outcomes of surviving students, emphasizing the persistent cost that gun violence imposes on the hundreds of thousands of American children who have experienced it at their schools,” read the AEA news release.
Rossin-Slater was one of the authors of a landmark study featured in The New York Times in February 2023, which documented substantial disparities in infant and maternal health by income and race, and found that the wealthiest Black mothers and their babies have worse outcomes than their poorer white counterparts. In other work, she found that exposure to assault during pregnancy adversely affects infant health, pointing to an important intergenerational harm caused by domestic violence.
"I feel incredibly honored and grateful to receive the Elaine Bennett Prize," Rossin-Slater said "I greatly admire all of the past winners and feel totally stunned to find myself in this remarkable company. The prize, of course, is also a testament to all of the work of my many co-authors, students, and predoctoral research fellows, and I am deeply indebted to my mentors and colleagues who nominated me and have supported me for many years."
Her study on the long-term consequences of the Clean Air Act of 1970 demonstrated that fetal exposure to air pollution adversely affects adult earnings 30 years later. In another study, she used administrative data from Sweden to determine that maternal stress stemming from a death of a family member can affect the later-life mental health of children who experience these shocks while in utero.
Rossin-Slater also organizes an annual mentoring workshop for women and non-binary PhD students, in which hundreds of students from around the world have participated over the last five years. This workshop has been supported by Rossin-Slater’s National Science Foundation CAREER award, the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, the AEA’s Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession, and the American Society of Health Economists.
“Economics is about a lot of different aspects of human behavior in society, and you cannot think about all kinds of questions unless you have a diverse set of people doing the research,” Rossin-Slater told a group of women graduate students who had convened at Stanford for a day of mentorship. “You, here, are part of the next generation of female economists who can help change the profession.”
The AEA Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession began awarding the annual prize in 1988 in memory of Elaine Bennett, who made significant contributions to economic theory and experimental economics and mentored many women economists at the start of their careers. The award will be presented to Rossin-Slater at the ceremony of the American Economic Association on Jan. 6, 2024.