Raj Chetty is the Director of Opportunity Insights and the William A. Ackman Professor of Economics at Harvard University. His research seeks to answer one question: What can be done to revive the American dream? At Opportunity Insights, he uses big data to study the factors that influence economic opportunity, especially for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Combining empirical evidence and economic theory, Chetty reveals the barriers to upward mobility and develops the government policy changes necessary to remove them. Informative and engaging, Chetty offers an eye-opening look into the real but hidden forces impacting our lives. He leaves audiences with a deeper understanding of the most critical issues of our time and the knowledge to be part of their solutions.
Chetty’s areas of research are inspired by the issues affecting everyday people, challenges that arise in dinner table conversations and those that make newspaper headlines. 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. His most recent paper shook up the college admissions conversation with the revelation of a type of “affirmative action” for children of the 1% at elite universities and that these 12 schools, dubbed the “Ivy-plus,” are responsible for an incredibly significant portion of America’s leadership. With the research came a call for schools to diversify their admissions to enable a broader spectrum of socioeconomic backgrounds in American leadership—our politicians, CEOs, Supreme Court justices—and prevent further concentration of power into the hands of the elite. Prior studies included how zip code, social capital, race, and even one’s kindergarten teacher affects chances of upward economic mobility.
Raj 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 UC Berkeley and Stanford University. Chetty has received numerous awards for his research, including a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship 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.
Reviving the American Dream
The American dream promises that with hard work and determination, anyone from any background can achieve great success. But research shows that children’s chances of earning more than their parents have been declining. 90% of children born in 1940 grew up to earn more than their parents. Today, only half of all children earn more than their parents did. In this talk, director of Opportunity Insights Raj Chetty pulls back the curtain to reveal the barriers to economic mobility and presents the steps necessary to make the American dream a reality. Knowing where they fit into the puzzle and equipped with actionable next steps, audiences will leave motivated to play their part in building a more equitable future.
Social Capital and the Importance of Cross-Class Friendships
Raj Chetty published groundbreaking research that found cross-class friendships are a key factor to reducing poverty. When lower income people, especially at a young age, have frequent interactions with higher income people, their chances to rise out of poverty increase dramatically. The primary interpretation of these findings is access: access to information, opportunities, experiences—a new world opens up when a child can connect to a life outside of poverty. But research also shows that people tend to befriend those from similar economic backgrounds. In this talk, Chetty explores what can be done at a community level to facilitate genuine cross-class connections that can be the difference between success and squalor for the disadvantaged.
Reshaping America’s Leadership Landscape
Raj Chetty sent shockwaves rippling in all directions with a study on college admissions revealing that just 12 universities, with a disproportionately high admission rate for children of the 1%, are inordinately responsible for forming America’s elite leadership. The findings state: “Less than 0.5% of Americans attend Ivy-Plus colleges. Yet these twelve colleges account for more than 10% of Fortune 500 CEOs, a quarter of U.S. Senators, half of all Rhodes scholars, and three-fourths of Supreme Court justices appointed in the last half-century.” What kind of society is created when positions of immense influence are dominated by wealthy individuals from similar backgrounds? What changes must be made, in college admissions, in hiring practices, and beyond, to ensure a diversity of socioeconomic background and a diversity of perspective in the country’s leadership? Chetty leads the conversation in this eye-opening talk.
College Admissions: A Campus Conversation
A lot is changing in the world of college admissions. The Supreme Court has struck down race-based affirmative action. Individuals and institutions alike are questioning the validity of legacy admissions. Raj Chetty, director of Opportunity Insights, revealed that elite universities give preference to children of the 1%, even when applicants have similar grades and test scores. What needs to change in college admissions to level the playing field? Do Ivy-plus colleges hold the only key to success in life? Is your student body representative of the world you hope to enter after graduation? Whether you’re applying to college or already a student, Chetty can help you navigate this changing landscape.