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. 


"The SOI Databank: A case study in leveraging administrative data in support of evidence-based policymaking," w/ Raj Chetty, Emmanuel Saez, and Danny Yagan. Statistical Journal of the IAOS, Vol. 34 (1), pp. 99-103 (2018).

"The Opportunity Atlas: Mapping the Childhood Roots of Social Mobility," w/ Raj Chetty, Nathan Hendren, Maggie R. Jones, and Sonya R. Porter. NBER Working Paper Series, no. 25147, 10/01/2018, Non-Peer Reviewed, In Revision. 

“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

Daily life in Virginia

3 ways to improve the outcomes for African Americans in the rural south (research by John Friedman cited)

August 6, 2019 Center for American Progress

Research from John Friedman's Opportunity Atlas is cited. "Using data taken from the Opportunity Atlas—a collaboration between the U.S. Census Bureau, Harvard University, and Brown University that provides data on economic mobility throughout the country—one can see that the South has the lowest level of economic mobility for all demographics."


College-Admissions Hysteria Is Not the Norm (research by John Friedman cited)

April 11, 2019 The Atlantic

Research by Professor John Friedman's think tank, Opportunity Insights, is cited in an article on the recent college admissions scandal. "Research published by Opportunity Insights ... has found that roughly three dozen of the country’s “elite” colleges enroll more students from households in the top 1 percent of the income scale than they do students from the bottom 60 percent of that scale."


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