I believe economics can and should be used to improve public policy, especially to improve equity and thereby the strength and stability of our multiracial and diverse society. Urban’s Health Policy Center has long had a critical mass of similarly dedicated researchers, and it is inspiring to learn what they are doing each day even as I try to continue work in this vein.
Len M. Nichols is a nonresident fellow at the Urban Institute, professor emeritus at George Mason University, and president of NS Ideas, LLC, a health policy consulting firm. In all three capacities he continues to expand his recent work on incentivizing investments in social determinants of health. Len’s career has spanned academia (Wellesley College and George Mason University), public policy research institutions (Urban, Mathematica, New America Foundation), and government (Office of Management and Budget, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and Federal Trade Commission), with a consistent focus on using economic analysis to improve the balance between equity and efficiency in public policies, especially in health insurance, health care, and social service markets. His current Collaborative Approach to Public Goods Investment, or CAPGI, project at Urban is the culmination of lessons learned while teaching, researching, writing, testifying, advising, and listening throughout his career. Since his experience as senior advisor for health policy at the Office of Management and Budget during the Clinton administration, Nichols has consistently tried to add moral arguments to the technical health and social policy debate, for he believes they are more complementary than contradictory, as did Adam Smith. He was a principal research associate in Urban’s Health Policy Center from 1994 to 2001 and is glad to be back with colleagues singularly dedicated to using data, logic and evidence to make health policy and health outcomes more equitable.
Len earned his BA in economics and business from Hendrix College in 1975, his MA in economics from the University of Arkansas in 1976, and his PhD in economics from the University of Illinois in 1980.