Dr. Maoyong Fan researches diverse areas of economics and health. The topics of his studies are how pollution (studied separately in China and the U.S.) harms human health, whether subsidized food programs increase the incidence of obesity in low-income recipients, how the built environment affects children’s weight and obesity, and why fewer agricultural laborers migrate in the U.S.

His studies have a common theme: how economics can improve human life and how economics analysis can help us understand and frame public policies.

“I was determined to study the impact of pollution since childhood,” said Fan, a professor of economics. “I grew up in a small town in China that had problems with air pollution and water pollution. Many people I knew suffered from pollution-related diseases, including liver cancer and cardiac arrest.

“Environmental pollution is one of the biggest threats to human health. The whole family is affected if one member gets sick, especially in developing countries. Yet research into the costs and consequences of environmental degradation in developing countries is extraordinarily limited. My hope is to provide research to policymakers to assist them in understanding the true costs and consequences of air and water pollution. With this knowledge, they can implement policies that improve the environment and their people’s well-being and welfare.”

Policymakers have listened to him. Research he and his colleagues did on the effects of air pollution in cities north of the Huai River in China motivated the government to alter its winter heating program. Prior to his work, the heating policy had almost exclusively relied on coal. Fan’s research found that the particles emitted from burning coal shortened people’s life expectancy by about three years. In response, the Chinese government started a gasification campaign to replace coal with natural gas, a much cleaner fuel, for the winter heating program.

Recognized as a leading expert in environmental health, Fan received Ball State University’s Outstanding Research Award in 2019. He said his research also makes him a better teacher.

My research projects provide a lot of real-world examples that enhance my students’ learning. These real-world examples encourage my students to think harder and analyze what happens in their lives. I hope my teaching leads them to have successful lives.

Fan started at Ball State in 2009, shortly after earning his doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley.

“When I was looking for a faculty position, I was seeking a place that values excellent research and top-notch teaching,” he said. “Ball State University’s Miller College of Business provides that environment for me.”

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