Researchers in CESR’s Program for Children and Families conduct theoretical and empirical research on the determinants and consequences of children’s health, educational and developmental outcomes starting from birth through young adulthood. This research examines the influences of family-level factors, neighborhoods and communities, and policy environment on the well-being of children and families. The Program consists of an interdisciplinary group of researchers representing a wide range of disciplines including economics, sociology, psychology, and public policy. For more information, please contact Program Director Ashlesha Datar.


The Military Teenagers’ Environments, Exercise, and Nutrition Study (M-TEENS) is a joint initiative between the University of Southern California (USC) and RAND Corporation. The project examines how the food and physical activity environments in military children’s schools and neighborhoods influence their diet, physical activity, sedentary behaviors, and body weight. This study will help us learn more about what factors influence the health and well-being of military children.


Welcome to the Behavioral and Experimental Economics (BEE) Research Group. At BEE, we use experiments to address questions about how economic theory can predict human behavior in the areas of health, education, financial decision-making and charitable giving. We work together with firms, charitable organizations, and schools to study human behavior in action.


CHECC is an ongoing research study aimed at studying programs that will improve educational outcomes for young people. The goal of CHECC is to intervene as early as possible to generate effects that are as great as possible. In 2009, the University of Chicago and Harvard University, were awarded a $10M grant from the Griffin Foundation to begin CHECC. Over 2,000 families participated in CHECC programs between 2010 and 2014.

Now, through grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, we are working with schools, CHECC parents and children to understand the long-term impact of CHECC programs on educational and health outcomes.


The Watts Neighborhood Health Study (WNHS) is a longitudinal research study looking at the effects of neighborhood built and social environments on obesity for low-income, urban populations. To study the causality of these effects, the WNHS collects data from residents at the Jordan Downs (JD) public housing project as well as two control public housing sites in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. This study is generously funded by grants from the National Cancer Institute, as well as the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Center for Child Health and Human Development.



Director of the Program on Children and Families

Senior Economist

Her research focuses on the role of school, neighborhood, and other contextual factors in determining children’s health and educational outcomes, with a special focus on childhood obesity. In her current research, Datar is studying the factors explaining the emergence of socioeconomic disparities in childhood obesity. She is also leading a large NICHD-funded study to examine how food and physical activity environments influence diet, activity behaviors and obesity among military children.