Panka Bencsik


I am an Assistant Professor at Vanderbilt University with a joint appointment in the Department of Medicine, Health, and Society and the Program in Public Policy Studies

An applied microeconomist, I have research interests in health economics, the economics of crime, and urban economics. I study the impacts of the opioid crisis, what influences nutritional choices, how individuals' mental health is impacted by external stressors, and how health carries forward intergenerationally. Additionally, I study the impact of the US criminal justice system, including how policies can simultaneously avert incarceration and increase public safety. In my research, I combine causal inference with addressing policy-relevant questions. See my CV here.

If you'd like to learn more about my work, consider taking a look at my op-ed in the Chicago Tribune discussing potential solutions to the opioid crisis, or listening to my podcast interview on Jennifer Doleac's Probable Causation.

Before, I was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of  Chicago, Urban Labs. My research portfolio included topics such as the intersection of policing and mental health, substance use treatment, gun violence in Chicago, and populations engaging in risky behaviors. 

I am the founding leader of the world's largest research hub on mental health economics, the Mental Health Economics Special Interest Group. I run this group under the umbrella of the International Health Economics Association (iHEA).

You can reach me at

Name pronounced as: Pankasounds like Bianca or Blanca; Bencsiksounds like Ben-chick (as in chickpeas)