Spotlight: An Interview with Pinka Chaterrji on her Work, "Psychiatric Disorders and Labor Market Outcomes: Evidance from the National Latino and Asian American Study"

Pinka Chatterji
Health Economist, Center for Multicultural Mental Health Research
Instructor, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
Faculty Research Fellow, National Bureau of Economic Research


Dr. Chatterji is a health economist whose primary research interest is the economic analysis of substance abuse and mental illness. Psychiatric Disorders and mental distress affect individuals but can also have broader impacts on the labor force and economic productivity. The May WCPC Research Flash highlights her work Psychiatric Disorders and Labor Market Outcomes: Evidence from the National Latino and Asian American Study which was originally published under the same name in Health Economics, Vol. 16: 1069-90 (2007).  WCPC took this opportunity to interview Dr. Chatterji about her work:


WCPC: How did you become interested in the effects of psychiatric disorders on labor market outcomes for Latinos and Asian Americans?

Chatterji: I first became interested in this topic about 5 years ago when I started working at the Center for Multicultural Mental Health Research, which is a research center based at Cambridge Health Alliance/Harvard Medical School. The director of the center, Dr. Maggie Alegria, as well as Dr. David Takeuchi at the time was in the process of collecting these data. The labor market portion of the survey had not been explored much at that time, and it looked very interesting.

WCPC: Your data set was nationally-representative sample of over 4,000 Latino and Asian American Adults. What was the most interesting part of working with this particular data set?

Chatterji: The most interesting part for me was the diversity of the respondents. Their occupations and labor market experiences were quite distinct from the mostly non-Latino white survey populations I have examined in prior work.

WCPC: What was the most significant finding to you?

Chatterji: The most significant finding was that we saw large effects of mental disorders on employment for Latino females in particular. We need to investigate further to understand why we see this pattern in the data.

WCPC: What questions does this research raise for future inquiry?

Chatterji: Since we see effects on employment, it would be useful to also consider effects of mental disorders on earnings, work hours and other labor market outcomes.

WCPC: What implications does this study have for policy makers?

Chatterji: The workforce is so much more diverse than it was 20 years ago - to make informed policy decisions, we need more data on the labor market experiences of minority and immigrant groups.