Raj Chetty is a Professor of Economics at Stanford University, whose current work focuses on inequality and social mobility in America.

Raj Chetty is a Professor of Economics at Stanford University. At age 23, Chetty received a Ph.D. from Harvard. He went on to teach at the University of California, Berkeley before returning to Harvard to become one of the youngest tenured professors in the university’s history. In 2012, Chetty received the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Fellowship to continue his research. The following year he was awarded the John Bates Clark medal, given by the American Economic Association to the best American economist under age 40. Chetty became an economics professor at Stanford in 2015.

Chetty’s research combines empirical evidence and economic theory to help design more effective government policies. His current work focuses on equality of opportunity, seeking to address the question of how to give children from disadvantaged backgrounds better chances of succeeding. In one groundbreaking study on the Moving to Opportunity experiment, Chetty and his team identified that the earlier a child moves out of a high-poverty neighborhood, the greater the likelihood that individual will experience upward economic mobility. In fact, his research demonstrated that children whose families took the vouchers and moved out of high-poverty neighborhoods had substantially higher incomes later in life, compared to those children whose families didn’t have that opportunity.

Gains in income

31% Children who moved to a lower-poverty area before their teenage years had an average income 31% higher than those who didn’t.

In an interview with PBS Newshour, Chetty discusses the powerful link between disadvantaged neighborhoods and racial inequality:

“Twenty-five percent of the gap in earnings between blacks and whites that all of us know about is driven simply by the fact that blacks tend to grow up in neighborhoods that are much worse, on average, than whites. And so, because we have this vast disparity across areas in the U.S., in terms of the opportunities they’re giving kids, we’re actually amplifying these racial divisions.”

Raj Chetty was recognized in September 2016 as one of Living Cities' 25 Disruptive Leaders working to close racial opportunity gaps.