In the Pioneering MIT Department of Economics, Researchers Turn a Scientific Lens to Policy

By MIT Spectrum
September 15th, 2022


Faculty News
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“'I entered the field to figure out how to make some progress on big, fundamental problems in society,' says Parag Pathak, the Class of 1922 Professor of Economics in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, and a director of Blueprint Labs, a policy-oriented economic research group at MIT. 'One of these problems is the inequality of opportunity.'

David H. Autor, the Ford Professor of Economics, specializes in the impacts of technology on work. He wants to understand 'how we minimize adverse consequences of a changing economy and shape opportunities to create a world we all want to live in.'

Driven by such concerns, Pathak and Autor, as well as such departmental colleagues as Joshua Angrist, recipient of the 2021 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, and 2018 MacArthur Fellow Amy Finkelstein PhD ’01, are engaged in research with the power to reshape key sectors of public life. Their studies of health care, education, and the workforce— grounded in theory, novel experimentation, and data analysis—provide insights that frequently capture the attention of the press and sometimes shake up their field.

'We have been a pioneering department for decades, and successful because we are highly innovative while at the same time quite practical,” says Autor. “New ideas start at MIT and diffuse from there.'"