Leading development economist Dean Karlan to join the Buffett Institute

May 26, 2017

Dean Karlan joins the Buffett InstituteDean Karlan, professor of economics at Yale and founder of Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), joins the Buffett Institute on July 1, where he will help launch a new center on development economics in partnership with Chris Udry and several other Northwestern faculty, including fellow development economists Lori Beaman and Seema Jayachandran.

"With Chris Udry already set to arrive, Dean Karlan's appointment really clinches the deal: the Buffett Institute, and Northwestern University, will house one of the leading centers for development economics,” says director Bruce Carruthers. “Dean is an extraordinarily active researcher who seeks to advance policy debates and have a real impact on human lives. I look forward to some exciting times for the Buffett Institute."  

Karlan will have dual appointments at the Buffett Institute and the Kellogg School of Management. His research focuses on microeconomic issues of public policies and poverty. Much of his work uses behavioral economics insights and approaches to examine economic and policy issues relevant to developing countries, with particular attention to policies to increase income and financial wellbeing for those in extreme poverty. In the United States, he works on charitable giving, financial services for the under and unbanked, and behavioral health.

He received his PhD in economics 2002 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and prior to that completed an MBA and MPP from the University of Chicago. He is a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, and the Guggenheim Fellowship. Dean is also on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the M.I.T. Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab.

Karlan first visited the Buffett Institute in 2012 to give a talk on solving global poverty. As was (and still is) tradition at Buffett, during his visit as guest lecturer he had dinner with several of Buffett-affiliated undergraduate students. He says he was “extremely impressed” by their enthusiasm and knowledge on global development issues, and cites that experience as an important factor in his decision to come to Northwestern. 

“I’m excited to join a community of researchers and students here at Northwestern who have such passion for issues like solving global poverty,” he says. “It’s clear that the University has a strong commitment to supporting our work at all levels: from generating ideas, to gathering evidence, to building infrastructure, to influencing policy.” 

For his first year on campus, Karlan’s work at the Buffett Institute will primarily revolve around setting up the new Center, which will be an academic hub for empirical development economics. In addition to building research infrastructure and engaging in advocacy and policy outreach, the Center will organize itself around several research clusters, beginning with clusters in Ghana and the Philippines, as well as clusters focused on financial inclusion and social protection. More details about the center will be announced this fall.