MacArthur Fellows Program

MacArthur Fellows / Meet the Class of 2012

Raj Chetty

Public Economist

Professor, Department of Economics

Harvard University

Cambridge, MA

Age: 33

Published October 2, 2012

Raj Chetty is an economist whose rigorous theoretical and empirical studies are informing the design of effective government policy.  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. More recently, he and colleagues designed novel empirical tests to gauge the impact of sales taxes on demand. In a study at a large supermarket chain, they demonstrated that, although most customers were well-informed about the retail sales tax rates, consumers purchased less of a product when posted prices indicated the associated sales tax than when the tax was simply added to the product’s base price at checkout. This observation, suggesting that the way in which a tax is perceived can have as much or more impact on consumer decision making as the tax itself, is an important contribution to the emerging field of behavioral public finance. Using large administrative databases drawn from tax and social security records in the United States and Europe, Chetty currently is exploring 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. In a study on teacher quality using these data sets and information gleaned from school district databases, Chetty and colleagues found that, adjusting for other factors, students who by chance were assigned to talented teachers in elementary school had significantly higher incomes as adults and better future life outcomes more generally. By asking simple, penetrating questions and developing rigorous theoretical and empirical tests, Chetty’s timely, often surprising, findings in applied economics are illuminating key policy issues of our time.

Raj Chetty received a B.A. (2000) and a Ph.D. (2003) from Harvard University. He was a faculty member at the University of California at Berkeley (2003–2009) prior to his appointment at Harvard University, where he is currently a professor in the Department of Economics and director of the Lab for Economic Applications and Policy. His articles have appeared in such publications as the Quarterly Journal of Economics, American Economic Review, Annual Review of Economics, and Econometrica, among others.

Photos

Hi-res photos for download. Photos licensed under a Creative Commons license. Courtesy of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Right-click on the links below to save the file to your computer.

Raj Chetty In the Media

"Upward Mobility Has Not Declined, Study Says"

The New York Times
Emmanuel Saez, 2010 MacArthur Fellow
Raj Chetty, 2012 MacArthur Fellow
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"How Socially Mobile Is America?" thumbnail

"How Socially Mobile Is America?"

From CNN World
Raj Chetty, MacArthur Fellow, 2012 Read More
"Raj Chetty Wins the John Bates Clark Medal" thumbnail

"Raj Chetty Wins the John Bates Clark Medal"

From The New York Times
Raj Chetty, MacArthur Fellow, 2012
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"Study Questions Tax Breaks’ Effect on Retirement Savings" thumbnail

"Study Questions Tax Breaks’ Effect on Retirement Savings"

From The New York Times
Raj Chetty, MacArthur Fellow, 2012
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About the Fellows Program

The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction. Learn More

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Class of 2014

23 MacArthur Fellows Announced thumbnail

23 MacArthur Fellows Announced

MacArthur named 23 new MacArthur Fellows for 2012. Working across a broad spectrum of endeavors, the Fellows include a pediatric neurosurgeon, a marine ecologist, a journalist, a photographer, an optical physicist and astronomer, a stringed-instrument bow ... Read More