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Improving equality of opportunity in America: new insights from big data

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Hear Professor Raj Chetty talk about the work of Opportunity Insights, the research centre he leads at Harvard University

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Children’s chances of earning more than their parents have fallen from 90% to 50% over the past half-century in America. How can we restore the American Dream of upward mobility for our children? In this talk, Raj Chetty will discuss recent work that he and his colleagues at Opportunity Insights have done to study this question. Among other topics, the talk will show how children’s chances of climbing the income ladder vary across neighbourhoods, analyse the sources of racial disparities in intergenerational mobility, and discuss the role of higher education in creating greater income mobility. The talk will conclude by discussing how local policymakers can harness big data to increase opportunity in their own communities and institutions.

Held in collaboration with the UCL Department of Economics.

As well as the opportunity to put your questions to Professor Chetty, the event will include responses to his lecture from:

  • Sir Richard Blundell, Ricardo Professor of Political Economy, UCL Department of Economics and Director of the ESRC Centre for the Microeconomic Analysis of Public Policy, Institute for Fiscal Studies
  • Lindsey Macmillan, Professor of Economics and Director of the Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities, UCL Institute of Education.

Raj Chetty is the William A. Ackman Professor of Public Economics at Harvard University and Director of Opportunity Insights. Chetty’s research combines empirical evidence and economic theory to help design more effective government policies. His work on tax policy, unemployment insurance, and education has been widely cited in media outlets and Congressional testimony. His current research focuses on equality of opportunity: how can we give children from disadvantaged backgrounds better chances of succeeding?

Chetty earned his AB summa cum laude from Harvard College in 2000 and his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2003. At the age of 23, Chetty became a professor at the University of California at Berkeley until 2009, when he returned to Harvard as one of the youngest tenured professors in Harvard’s history. Chetty was a faculty member at Stanford from 2015 to 2018. In summer 2018, he returned to Harvard where he rejoined the Economics Department and launched Opportunity Insights.

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. He has also received the Sherwin Rosen Prize of the Society of Labor Economists and Calvó-Armengol International Prize in Economics. He was elected as a fellow to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2014 and as a member to the National Academy of Sciences in 2018.

Richard Blundell CBE FBA holds the Ricardo Chair of Political Economy at the UCL Department of Economics and is Director of the ESRC Centre for the Microeconomic Analysis of Public Policy at the Institute for Fiscal Studies. He has published widely on microeconometrics, consumer behaviour, savings, labour supply, taxation, public finance, innovation and inequality, and is currently editor and panel member of the IFS-Deaton Review: Inequality in the 21st Century. A reflection of his highly esteemed and awarded career, he received a Knighthood in the 2014 New Year Honours list for his services to Economics and Social Science Read more.

Lindsey Macmillan is Professor of Economics and Director of the Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities (CEPEO). She is also a Research Fellow at the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Her research considers the role of early skills, education and labour market experience in the transmission of incomes and work across generations. Her publications cover intergenerational mobility, educational inequalities and the role of family background in access to jobs. In 2020 she co-authored The long shadow of deprivation: Differences in opportunities across England, which drew on pioneering work by Raj Chetty and colleagues from the US based on within-country comparisons of social mobility, applying that to England to reveal a ‘postcode lottery’ of social mobility Read more.

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