Harsha Thirumurthy


  • PSC Associates Alison M. Buttenheim, PhD, MBA, and Harsha Thirumurthy, PhD were featured in this collection titled “Imagining the Next Decade of Behavioral Science.” Read more about their projects here.

  • Congratulations to Principal Investigators, Atul Gupta and David S. Mandell, alongside Co-Investigators, Alison M. Buttenheim, Norma Coe, and Harsha Thirumurthy, on receiving 2020 LDI pilot research grants. The various early stage health services research projects target challenges in health and health care delivery. Read more here

  • Harsha Thirumurthy, PhD, an associate director of Penn’s Center for Health Incentives & Behavioral Economics (CHIBE), and Alison Buttenheim, PhD, MBA, interim director of CHIBE, have received a three-year, $3.5 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to establish a first-of-its-kind HIV-focused nudge unit in South Africa. The nudge unit will form partnerships with government and HIV services providers and test behavioral interventions to increase population-level coverage of HIV prevention services. The project will be led by CHIBE with a strong local partner, HE2RO (Health Economics and Epidemiology Research Office at Wits University in Johannesburg).

Associate Professor of Medical Ethics and Health Policy

Ph.D., Economics, Yale University, 2006

I am trained as a development economist and began my research career using longitudinal household survey data that my colleagues and I collected in Kenya. I used these data along with a non-experimental study design to examine the effects of improvements in the health of HIV-infected adults (due to provision of HIV treatment) on employment outcomes of those adults as well as nutrition and schooling outcomes of children living with those adults. This research led to publications in the Journal of Human Resources, Journal of Public Economics, and Economic Development and Cultural Change. My research focus builds directly on the PDB Program areas, STD/HIV/AIDS and Population Economics.  My work aligns with PDB’s research focus in Demography, Behavioral and Social Science Research and Population Health.  Recent research (with partial support from an NICHD K01 award, K01HD061605) has tested innovative behavioral interventions to increase utilization of HIV prevention services and that has measured individuals’ subjective expectations about survival and health.  I have led research on the use of economic incentives in Africa, particularly an RCT of small incentives to promote uptake of medical male circumcision in Kenya (published in JAMA in 2014). My research expertise and my strong collaborative record with clinicians and translational scientists qualifies me to serve as an Active Research Scientist at the PSC. Over the past 10 years I have published over 60 articles in economics and biomedical journals. I have become a leading expert on economic and behavioral aspects of HIV/AIDS in Africa, having served on the program committee of the International AIDS Conference in 2013 and 2016. Prior to my appointment at Penn, I maintained expertise in population studies through engagement in the Carolina Population Center and ongoing service as a standing member of the NICHD Population Sciences Subcommittee. The PSC represents an important resource for collaboration and integration of my research interests in household decision-making, subjective expectations, health behavior, and population health. 


  • 2019 MacArthur 100 and Change Competition: Alison M. Buttenheim and Harsha Thirumurthy on Behavioral Solutions to End the World's Largest HIV Epidemic
  • Penn Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics: Harsha Thirumurthy on Behavioral Strategies for HIV Testing and Treatment
  • IAS Conference on HIV Science: Harsha Thirumurthy on the Uptake of Medical Male Circumcision in Kenya