Matthew Harding, UCI associate professor of economics, has received a $78,400 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to determine the impact of health incentive programs on food stamp recipients in Michigan. In collaboration with researchers at the New York University School of Medicine, Harding is using the power of big data and deep learning to study consumers’ complex purchasing patterns in an effort to induce healthier behaviors. Complex machine learning models, based on neural networks, are applied to information-rich big data sets of grocery store purchases, consumer demographics and detailed nutritional product information in order to identify linkages across individual consumption patterns and health outcomes. “Both policymakers and companies are looking to encourage consumption of healthier foods,” Harding explained. “The combination of advanced techniques from machine learning and the availability of big data allows us to understand how policy impacts different types of individuals, as well as to conduct a much more insightful analysis than we were able to perform until now.”