Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Nathaniel Hilger

+1 401 863 6297
Robinson Hall 302D



Downloadable CV

Nathaniel Hilger

Assistant Professor of Economics


Nathaniel Hilger is a labor and public economist with interests in education, inequality, and intergenerational mobility. He joined Brown University in 2013 after receiving his PhD in economics from Harvard.


Hilger’s research has focused on intergenerational mobility, inequality, education and child development. One project documents that kindergarten teachers who causally increase children's test scores also increase children’s future college and labor market outcomes, despite short-term "fade-out" of test scores. Another project documents that higher parental income during adolescence causally improves children’s college outcomes, but much less effectively than dollar-equivalent changes in financial aid. His ongoing research explores historical and international aspects of intergenerational mobility and contemporary issues in child development. 


 "How Does Your Kindergarten Classroom Affect Your Earnings? Evidence from Project STAR," with Raj Chetty, John N. Friedman, Emmanuel Saez, Diane Schanzenbach and Danny Yagan. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 126(4): 1593-1660, 2011.


ECON 1375: Inequality of Opportunity in the United States (undergraduate senior seminar)

This course examines emerging evidence on why children with different socioeconomic backgrounds wind up with such different outcomes as adults. We will cover recent work in economics that attempts to quantify the importance of genetic endowments, parents, neighborhoods, income, discrimination, and educational and health care policies in determining children’s long-term labor market success, and draw implications for public policy. Emphasis will be placed on how data can be used to infer causal relationships.

ECON 1480: Public Economics (undergraduate)

This course is an introduction to the economics of the public sector. We will cover theoretical and empirical tools of public economics and apply these tools to a wide range of issues including externalities, public goods, collective choice, social insurance, redistribution and taxation. The course will focus on questions such as: What should government do? How much should governments insure individuals against misfortune? How much should governments redistribute resources from high-income to low-income households? Throughout the course we will emphasize real-world empirical applications rather than hypothetical examples.

ECON 2490: Public Economics (graduate)

This is the second half of a two-course public economics sequence. The first half is taught in the Fall and focuses on the taxation side of government. In this second half, we will focus on the expenditure side of government. We will cover key issues in education, social insurance, externalities and place-based policies. The overarching goal of the course will be to generate ideas and interests for graduate students to pursue in their research.