Research Interests

I am an applied economist with research interests in nexus of food, health, and behavioral economics. My current research focuses on how consumer food consumption behaviors are shaped by policies, preferences, and product attributes such as portion and package sizes. In addition to the food consumption behavior, I am also interested in behavioral economics more broadly. For example, my past research explored discrepancies between laboratory experiments and true stakeholder decisions. I tested this in the context of land conservation programs. As a research assistant, I have worked on projects focused on local food sourcing in farm-to-school programs in the United States as well as using technology in household food waste reduction.

Working Papers

Panchalingam, T. “Effects of Public Health Insurance Expansions on the Non-Healthcare Consumption of Low-income Households.” (Job Market Paper [Link]) Please log into 2020 AAEA Virtual Annual Meeting to view the presentation

I explore patterns of non-healthcare consumption in targeted U.S. households due to public health insurance expansions. Specifically, I investigate the effects of the recent Medicaid expansions on eligible low-income households’ recurring food and other preventative non-healthcare consumption expenditures. I use a consumer panel data that deploys at-home scanner technology to track grocery purchases. Using an event-study design, and a triple difference-in-differences framework, I find that the Medicaid eligible households from expansion states spent less on fresh produce per adult and more on health and beauty products after the Medicaid expansion. Almost all the increase in the health and beauty product expenditure is due to an increase in expenditure on over-the-counter medications and remedies, which are more responsive and palliative than preventative in nature. The robust reduction in fresh produce expenditures and increase in expenditures on over-the-counter medications and remedies suggests that while expanded public health insurance increases formal healthcare activity and it decreases informal preventative non-healthcare expenditures. These new patterns of non-healthcare consumption may occur because of improved finances due to subsidized healthcare, changes in relative costs of healthcare and non-healthcare consumption, or the substitution between healthcare and preventative non-healthcare consumption. These findings may begin to shift the focus in the literature on the unintended consequences of Medicaid expansion from sins of commission, i.e., moral hazard responses such as increased smoking, alcohol use and junk food consumption, to sins of omission, i.e., responses in which preventative health habits erode.

Panchalingam, T., Howard, G. E. Klaiber, H.A. & Roe, B.E. “Adolescent Children's Preferences for Locally Sourced Foods in School Lunches Under Parent-Child Interaction.” (Under Review)

In this paper, we emphasize why analyzing joint parent-student food choice behavior, rather than individual choices, is vital to understanding decision making regarding adding local foods in school meals. We model both joint and separate local food preferences for parents and students. We conducted a nationwide survey that embeds a school lunch discrete choice experiment. Results indicate that students and parents would prefer that locally produced items be added to school lunch menus. However, while parent and student preferences align on some aspects of locally sourced meal elements, their preferences are not identical, with parents displaying more preference for locally sourced vegetables and students displaying more preference for locally sourced fruits.

Wijesinghe, A. and Panchalingam, T. “Efficiency of Public Sector Spending on Health and Education in South Asia” (Under Review)

Efficient spending of public sector investment in education and health is crucial for low fiscal pressure, minimal tax burden, and sustainable economic growth. We model the technical efficiency of government spending on education and health sectors for eight South Asian countries using a multi-stage Data Envelopment Analysis. Then, we estimate the effect of environmental variables on efficiency. Finally, we disentangle managerial inefficiency in the education and health sectors from inefficiencies in environmental components and statistical noise. Our findings suggest that in the education sectors, the relationship between efficiency and expenditure is U-shaped and that greater political rights comprised of higher freedom in electoral process, higher political pluralism and participation, and better functioning of government increases efficiency. Further, education sectors perform near the efficiency frontier in South Asian countries when the model is adjusted for environmental component and statistical noise. However, we find that in the health sectors, efficiency gains could compensate for increasing public expenditure. Specifically, managerial efficiency in the region’s health sectors can be improved by around 30%, implying potential for reducing public health expenditure without sacrificing the current outcome levels.

Panchalingam, T. Who Buys Portion-Controlled Sizes of Full Calorie Soda? Evidence from Scanner Data (May 3, 2021). Available at SSRN:

Academic Publications

Panchalingam, T., Ritten, C. J., Shogren, J. F., Ehmke, M. D., Bastian, C. T., & Parkhurst, G. M. (2019). Adding realism to the Agglomeration Bonus: How endogenous land returns affect habitat fragmentation. Ecological Economics, 164, 106371. [Link]

Jones Ritten, C., Bastian, C., Shogren, J. F., Panchalingam, T., Ehmke, M. D., & Parkhurst, G. (2017). Understanding pollinator habitat conservation under current policy using economic experiments. Land, 6(3), 57. [Link]

Ehmke, M., Jones-Ritten, C., Shogren, J., & Panchalingam, T. (2015). Integrating ecological and economic considerations for pollinator habitat policy. Choices, 30 (316-2016-7771). [Link]

Work in Progress

Panchalingam, T., and Wijesinghe, W. P. A. S. 2021 “Food Loss in Trade: A case study of South Asia using the Import Refusal Reports of the United States Food and Drug Administration.”

With Yuyan Shi and Co-authors. “US parents’ refusal and hesitancy to vaccinate their children under 16 against COVID-19.”

With Michael R. Brooker and Co-authors. “A Public-Private Partnership to Locate Fields for Implementation and Monitoring of Best Management Practices to Treat Legacy Phosphorus.”