Over the past 17 years, I have studied problems in Microeconomic Theory and Game Theory, especially pertaining to the Design of Mechanisms and Institutions in Networks Economics. I have a solid background in mathematics and theoretical microeconomics that I apply to diverse fields beyond economics. My research includes theoretical studies in networks, as well as their applications to multiple areas, including: water networks, electricity networks, routing (computer science) networks, and institutional and political networks.
As the only researcher working in game theory and socioeconomic networks in Hawaii, my goal is to apply my knowledge to policy-relevant projects that affect the State. As such, I am working on strategies to implement incentives that improve the efficiency of resource allocation in electricity and water networks in the State. Moreover, I believe health is another field that can be substantially benefited by incorporating knowledge in social and economic networks. I am hoping to transition my research to study issues related to public health. My expertise in Social and Economic Networks can address multiple problems from a perspective that has not been explored before in the State of Hawaii, especially related to economic modeling, public policy, and institutional design. This pilot project is meant to establish a research program in health that will link social scientists with other health researchers and health professionals in Hawaii. This multi-disciplinary interaction is unique, as my research complements traditional associations between health economists, psychologist/behavioral health specialists, and clinical and basic science researchers studying medical/health outcomes, as it will provide sound economic models of decision making by individuals when their decisions are influenced by the decisions of other individuals in the society (social network).
Upon consulting with public health and basic science researchers at UH, I have identified that health disparities within Hawaii is one of the most pressing health concerns where an understanding of social and economic networks can play a major role both in explaining the origins of such disparities and in addressing them. For instance, obesity-related diseases such as diabetes disproportionately affects Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (NHPIs) compared with Whites, with a 3-fold higher prevalence and earlier onset (10 years on average). This increased prevalence and onset has been linked to NHPIs experiencing disparate social and economic conditions. However, the impact of socioeconomic networks on diseases of health disparities in Hawaii has never before been measured. I am hoping the social and economic networks will help understand the underlying mechanisms behind the increased prevalence of these and other chronic diseases among Hawaii’s unique populations, including NHPIs. Mapping such networks will aid in identifying nodes of detrimental interactions that may be modified to reverse the increased prevalence of diseases of health disparity in NHPI populations. Moreover, I am hoping that this work will provide mechanisms for public policy decision making, and support studies that examine the biological (i.e. environmental/epigenetic) basis of such disparities. I hope that the applications of this theory serve as a model for further studying health disparities in other minority populations across the US, such as Hispanics- a community that I am a part of.
All my papers are available at my website: http://www2.hawaii.edu/~rubenj/