Monday, January 25, 2021
Using the powerful lens of data and economics, Professor Raj Chetty will lay the intellectual, theoretical, and statistical groundwork to evaluate whether the American Dream still remains attainable today. A MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant awardee and one of the most esteemed public economists in the world, Chetty will draw on his data-rich, nationwide research to illustrate how a residential zip code–where a child grows up–is more predictive of social mobility and economic fate than any other national metric. With each street in the United States mapped onto his “Opportunity Atlas,” Chetty’s research foretells which neighborhoods in America offer children the best chance to rise out of poverty, determines where and for whom opportunity has been missing, and even suggests targeted solutions to help more children and families.
Raj Chetty is the William A. Ackman Professor of Economics at Harvard University. Using extensive administrative databases drawn from tax and social security records in the United States, Chetty’s research combines empirical evidence and economic theory to help design more effective government policies. His work on topics ranging from tax policy and unemployment insurance to education and affordable housing has been widely cited in academia, media outlets, and Congressional testimony.
In 2012, Chetty received a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant for his rigorous theoretical and empirical studies in public economics illuminating the then-emerging field of behavioral public finance. His initial work focused on resolving inconsistencies in earlier theories of specific questions in public finance, such as how dividend tax cuts affect corporate behavior and how unemployment insurance affects job-seeking behavior. He has also designed empirical tests to gauge the impact of sales taxes on consumer demand in retail settings. Chetty has also explored a range of other questions, such as the effect of tax policy on how much people work, the extent to which tax deductions for retirement savings stimulate individual savings, and key aspects of early childhood education. By asking simple, penetrating questions, analyzing extensive data sets, and developing rigorous empirical tests, Chetty’s findings in applied economics illuminate key policy issues of our time.
Chetty received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2003 and is one of the youngest tenured professors in Harvard’s history. Before joining the faculty at Harvard, he was a professor at U.C. Berkeley and Stanford University. Chetty has received numerous awards for his research, including the MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant and the John Bates Clark Medal, given to the economist under 40 whose work is judged to have made the most significant contribution to the field.