Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

John N. Friedman

John N. Friedman

Associate Professor of Economics and International and Public Affairs


John N. Friedman is an associate professor of economics and international affairs and public policy. His research brings together theory and data, harnessing the power of large administrative datasets to yield policy-relevant insights on a wide range of topics, including taxation, healthcare, and education quality. His work has appeared in top academic journals as well as in major media outlets. His most well-known papers estimate the long-term effects of teachers on student outcomes such as college attendance and earnings; in just one year, a great teacher can raise the lifetime earnings of a single class of students by nearly $1.5 million. This work was cited by President Obama in his 2012 State of the Union Address. Friedman has also worked as special assistant to the President for economic policy at the National Economic Council in the White House from 2013-2014.  He holds a PhD in economics, an AM in statistics, and a BA in economics, all from Harvard University. He is a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research. 


“Identification and Inference with Many Invalid Instruments” w/ Michal Kolesar, Raj Chetty, Edward L. Glaeser and Guido W. Imbens (2013) Revise and resubmit at JBES

“Measuring the Impacts of Teachers I: Estimating Bias in Teacher Value-Added Estimates.” w/ Raj Chetty and Jonah Rockoff
American Economic Review, Vol. 104 (9), pp. 2593-2632 (2014)

“Measuring the Impacts of Teachers II: Teacher Value-Added and Student Outcomes in Adulthood.” w/ Raj Chetty and Jonah Rockoff
American Economic Review, Vol. 104 (9), pp. 2633-2679 (2014)

“Active vs. Passive Decisions and Crowd-Out in Retirement Savings: Evidence from Denmark” w/ Raj Chetty, Soren Leth-Petersen, Torben H. Nielsen, and Tore Olsen. Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol 129(3), (2014)

“Using Differences in Knowledge Across Neighborhood to Uncover the Impacts of the EITC on Earnings w/ Raj Chetty and Emmanuel Saez. American Economic Review, Vol. 103 (7), pp. 2683-2721 (2013) 

"How Does Your Kindergarten Class Affect Your Earnings? Evidence from Project STAR" w/ Raj Chetty, Nate Hilger, Emmanuel Saez, Diane Schanzenbach, and Danny Yagan. Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol 126 (4), pp. 1593-1660 (2011)

“Adjustment Costs, Firm Responses, and Labor Supply Elasticities: Evidence from Denmark” w/ Raj Chetty, Tore Olsen, and Luigi Pistaferri
Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 126 (2), pp. 749-804 (2011) 


MPA 2455  Statistics for Public Policy

Talks & Media

  1. Are America's colleges promoting social mobility? - APM Reports

  2. America, Land of Equal Opportunity? Still Not There - Bloomberg

  3. The Ivy League Students Least Likely to Get Married - The Upshot

  4. Higher Ed and the American Dream - Inside Higher Ed

  5. Top public universities are shutting out poor students, report says - Washington Post

News|Recent News

Las Vegas high-speed rail venture gets new owner (comments by John Friedman)

September 18, 2018 Wall Street Journal

Associate Professor of Economics John Friedman offered commentary on Brightline's expected acquisition of a private rail project on the Las Vegas Strip. "...Friedman concluded Brightline would be unable to service its debt burden on the Miami train system, in a study funded by a citizens group opposed to the rail line."


Changing class: Are colleges helping Americans move up? (comments by John Friedman)

August 21, 2018 American Public Media

Colleges have long offered a pathway to success for just about anyone -- but new research shows that they're not doing enough to help students from poor families achieve the American dream. Economist John Friedman said children of well-to-do families are likely to stay that way, while children of poor families are likely to stay poor -- and "I think that's led to a real feeling that the American dream is slipping away from them."


Supreme Court ruling could pave a path to better schools (John Friedman mentioned)

August 13, 2018 Barrons

This article about the implications of the Supreme Court ruling on union membership focuses on its impact on teachers. It notes that economist John Friedman and his colleagues found that students of good teachers are less likely to experience teenage pregnancy, more likely to go to selective colleges, and end up earning more money as adults than students from comparable backgrounds who had worse teachers.


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