Renowned Indian-American behavioral economist to join Booth School of Business

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Renowned behavioral economist Sendhil Mullainathan who will be joining the Chicago Booth School of Business July 1 as University Professor. (Photo: harvard.edu)

Influential economics scholar Sendhil Mullainathan, 45, will be joining the University of Chicago Booth School of Business faculty July 1, as a “University Professor” leaving his current position as the Robert C. Waggoner Professor of Economics at Harvard University.

Mullainathan’s research spans broad areas of economics:  behavioral, labor, public economics and corporate finance, and most recently has focused on the intersection of machine learning and public policy. His seminal research includes topics ranging from the impact of poverty on mental bandwidth, to showing that higher cigarette taxes make smokers happier, Booth noted in a May 21 press release.

“Sendhil is a phenomenal scholar, whose work has had great impact in a variety of fields,” Madhav Rajan, Booth Dean and George Pratt Shultz Professor of Accounting is quoted saying in the press release.“Sendhil’s history of collaboration across disciplines will strengthen ties among Booth’s research areas and deepen the school’s connections to the rest of the university,” Rajan added.

Born in a small village in India, Mullainathan came to the U.S. with his parents at the age of 7, to live in the Los Angeles area. A graduate of Cornell University, Mullainathan did his Ph.D. in economics at Harvard in 1998. He taught at Massachusetts Institute of Technology until 2004, and then moved to Harvard, where he is a professor of economics and affiliate of Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

“The University of Chicago has a grand tradition of defining new disciplines: the phrase ‘Chicago School of ___’ has its own resonance in many academic fields,” Mullainathan is quoted saying in the press release.

“Today a new discipline is emerging at the intersection of human and machine intelligence. Algorithms are now capable of amazing feats, and fully harnessing their capacities requires integrating them equally with marvelous aspects of human cognition,” Mullainathan said, adding, “I’m excited to join Booth and be part of a team that will, hopefully, define another ‘Chicago School’ in this emerging discipline.”

Mullainathan has published more than 50 journal articles, including 14 papers in top economics journals. He recently co-authored “Scarcity: Why Having too Little Means so Much,” and writes regularly for the New York Times. In 2002, he received a MacArthur Fellowship, and serves on the board of the MacArthur Foundation.

In 2012, Mullainathan was designated a “Young Global Leader” by the World Economic Forum; he also was labeled a “Top 100 Thinker” by Foreign Policy Magazine, and named to the “Smart List: 50 people who will change the world” by Wired Magazine (UK).

He helped co-found the non-profit organization ideas42, which applies behavioral science with the aim of changing lives. He also co-founded the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, a center to promote the use of randomized control trials in development. Mullainathan is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and is affiliated with the National Bureau of Economic Research.