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Frederick Zimmerman

Professor, Department of Health Policy and Management


DepartmentsType of Faculty
Health Policy and ManagementFull Time
Contact Information

31-236B CHS

Frederick J. Zimmerman is an economist with a background in institutional and behavioral economics. His research illuminates the intersection of economics and the determinants of health.  Dr. Zimmerman also teaches and does research in ethical aspects of public health policy.

Dr. Zimmerman has a particular interest in how economic structure—including poverty and inequality—influence population health.   Research topics have included the effects of media on child health; the effects of food marketing on obesity; and the opportunity costs of medical spending; and the political economy of health and social policy.

In one of the earliest agent-based models in economics, Dr. Zimmerman showed why it is rational for low-income people in a developing country to manage assets so conservatively that they end up with low returns—and remain stranded in poverty.  This research has since formed the basis of an NGO strategy to improve access to crop insurance for low-income people, enabling them to engage in riskier, but more lucrative activities. Dr. Zimmerman has also published extensively on the effects of child media use on subsequent health and development.  One of his papers showed the lack of any beneficial impact (and possible harm) of baby videos on language development, and was the foundation of a lawsuit before the Federal Trade Commission against what it argued were deceptive marketing claims made by Disney on behalf of its Baby Einstein franchise.  The lawsuit was dropped after Disney agreed to stop making such claims.   His recent research topics include simulated comparative effectiveness of public health policies; the effects of social and economic policy on population health; and the economics of health equity.

Dr. Zimmerman’s work  has integrated economic, sociological, and psychological perspectives of behavior into a multi-level theory that unifies both individual and population-level determinants of health. His current research is in the UCLA Center for Health Advancement, where he has developed a simulation model of the impact of health and social policy on population health, high-school graduation rates, crime rates, and local government finances for several jurisdictions around the country.

TheNew York Times, NPR, the BBC, Radio France Internationale and many other media outlets have covered Dr. Zimmerman’s research. 

Dr. Zimmerman teaches classes on Advanced Statistical Research Methods, Determinants of Health, and Public Health Ethics. 

PhD, University of Wisconsin
Selected Publications: 


  • Frederick J. Zimmerman. Public Health and Autonomy: A Critical Reappraisal. Hastings Center Report. December, 2017.
  • Selena E. Ortiz, Frederick J. Zimmerman, Gary J. Adler. Increasing Public Support for Obesity Prevention Policies using the Taste-Engineering Frame and Consumer-Oriented Values. Social Science & Medicine. 156:142-153. May, 2016.Donglan Zhang, Philippe J. Giabbanelli, Onyebuchi Arah and Frederick J. Zimmerman. Impact of Different Policies on Unhealthy Dietary Behaviors in an Urban Adult Population: An Agent-based Simulation Model American Journal of Public Health 104(7): 1217-1222. July, 2014.
  • Zimmerman, Frederick J. "Habit, custom, and power: A multi-level theory of population health." Social Science & Medicine 80 (2013): 47-56.
  • Jeffrey C. McCullough, Frederick J. Zimmerman, Jonathan E. Fielding and Steven M. Teutsch. A Health Dividend for America: The Opportunity Cost of Excess Medical Expenditures. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 43(6):650-654. December, 2012.
  • Åsa Ljungvall and Frederick J. Zimmerman. Long-term Time Trends and Disparities in Body-mass Index among U.S. Adults 1960–2008. Social Science & Medicine 75(1):109- 119. July, 2012.
  • Zimmerman FJ, Christakis DA, Meltzoff AN. Associations Between Media Viewing and Language Development Among Children Under 2 Years Old Journal of Pediatrics 2007 Oct;151(4):364-8.
  • Zimmerman FJ and Christakis DA. Children's Television Viewing and Cognitive Outcomes: A Longitudinal Analysis of National Data. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine 159(7):619-625. July, 2005.
  • Zimmerman FJ, Carter MR. Asset Smoothing, Consumption Smoothing and the Reproduction of Inequality under Risk and Subsistence Constraints. Journal of Development Economics 2003 (August) 71(2): 233-260.