‘Baby Nobel’ for Delhi-born US economist Raj Chettyq

WASHINGTON (TIP): A young Indian- American economist whose pioneering work on education was cited by President Obama in last year’s State of the Union address has won a prestigious award that is often called the “Baby Nobel.” New Delhi-born Raj Chetty, now a professor of economics at Harvard, has been named the 2013 winner of the John Bates Clark Medal, which the American Economic Association awards annually to an “American economist under the age of forty who is adjudged to have made a significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge.” Notable past winners of the prize include Paul Krugman, Paul Samuelson, Milton Friedman, Joseph Stiglitz — all Nobel laureates — besides Chetty’s mentor Martin Feldstein, Freakonomist Steven Levitt, and former Treasury Secretary and Harvard University President Larry Summers. In fact, one in three Clark winners has gone on to win the Nobel (12 out of 35), which is why the medal has been dubbed the Baby Nobel.

Indeed, even by Clark medal standards, Chetty, who is only 33, is a relative novice. But as one of the youngest people in the history of Harvard’s economics department to be offered tenure (at 28), his work has been received with acclaim despite — or perhaps because of — its elegant simplicity, and his own youth. Among his oft-quoted research on education is a paper on whether kindergarten classrooms affect earning later in life, and “The Long-Term Impacts of Value-Added — Teacher and Student Outcomes in Adulthood,” which Obama referred to. “Raj Chetty is a remarkably productive economist whose contributions assimilate evidence using a variety of methodological perspectives to shed new light on important public policy questions,” the American Economic Association said in a statement outlining his work, adding, “He has established himself in a few short years as arguably the best applied microeconomist of his generation.” Chetty, whose parents moved to the U.S when he was nine, studied at University School in Milwaukee and Harvard University before becoming an assistant professor of economics at the University of Berkeley at only 23.

He became a tenured professor at 27 before returning to his alma mater (at 29) where he is a professor of economics and director of the Lab for Economic Applications and Policy. No one seemed particularly surprised by the latest honor to the popular economist, whose work echoes the lucid integrity of Paul Krugman, a previous winner. The Economist listed Chetty as one of the top eight young economists in the world in 2008, and last year he won the MacArthur Foundation’s so-called “Genius award.” He is also the recipient of the 2012 Mahalanobis Memorial Medal of the Indian Econometric Society, attesting to the recognition he has received from his home country.

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