Outstanding Economists (10 Phenomenal Careers)

Economics is often recalled as a class you take during high school to (hopefully) better understand the way money works in the world. However, without the field, we would not have policies and practices that ultimately contribute to our way of life. Outstanding economists work to apply many past theories to modern situations; furthermore, they work to develop new applications of field principles to the issues of the day. Among these ten awesome economists practicing today, you will find research into issues of sustainability to economic mobility to health issues to software development.

John Campbell, Ph.D. — Financial Management

John Campbell is an outstanding economist and professor in the field
John Campbell, Ph.D.

Currently serving as the Morton L. and Carole S. Olshan Professor of Economics, John Campbell is a faculty member at Harvard University. Additionally, he is a Partner at Arrowstreet Capital, LP.

He received his bachelor’s degree from Corpus Christi College at the University of Oxford. After studying in England, he went on to obtain his master’s degree and Ph.D. from Yale University. Moreover, he is the author of a multitude of articles on topics from finance to macroeconomics, often focusing on equity valuation, portfolio choice, and household finance. 

Campbell’s work earned him the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Grant and the Eugene Fama Prize for Outstanding Contributions to Doctoral Education. He also won the Harry M. Markowitz Award, the Graham and Dodd Award for Excellence, and the Paul A. Samuelson Award for Outstanding Scholarly Writing in Lifelong Financial Security. Furthermore, he was a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In addition to his current work and accolades, Campbell served as President of the International Atlantic Economic Society and Chair of the American Economic Association. He was also the Editor of The Review of Economics and Statistics and a co-editor of the American Economic Review.

Campbell’s contributions to the field of economics provide value for both those working in the field and day-to-day financial management for all.

Outstanding Economist: Read about John Campbell.

Dave Donaldson, Ph.D. — Global Economy

Dave Donaldson, Ph.D. researches the global economy
Dave Donaldson, Ph.D.

As a Professor of Economics at MIT, Dave Donaldson’s research focuses on international and domestic trade. His work holds important implications as our world attains a more global economy.

He earned his master’s degree and Ph.D. from the London School of Economics. Donaldson’s research has been supported by a variety of grants such as the NSF Award, the PEDL Major Grant, the IGC Grant, and the IPA SME Program Competitive Fund. Along with his many publications and working papers, he presents at conferences. His past presentations include features at the Princeton Future of Globalization Conference, a Syracuse Trade Talk Seminar, and a USC Development Seminar.

Beyond his work in teaching, Donaldson co-edits the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics and is an Associate Editor of the Journal of International Economics. He was also a Board Editor of the Journal of Economic Literature.

Donaldson has won a plethora of awards. This collection includes the TW Schultz Award from the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, the Sloan Research Fellowship, and the John Bates Clark Medal from the American Economic Association. Of note, he served as a Research Fellow for Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) and the Econometric Society. 

Outstanding Economist: Read about Dave Donaldson.

Alexandre Mas, Ph.D. —Government Economics Research

Alexandre Mas, Ph.D. studies government economics
Alexandre Mas, Ph.D.

At Princeton University, Alexandre Mas is a William S. Tod Professor of Economics and Public Affairs. He is also a research associate with the National Bureau of Economic Research and a Research Fellow with the Institute of Labor Economics (IZA). Additionally, Mas is an affiliate of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL).

He earned his bachelor’s degree from Macalester College and his master’s degree and Ph.D. from Princeton University. Since completing his education, Mas has published a long list of academic papers, books, and working papers.

In addition to his teaching and research positions, he is an editor of the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics. He also had the opportunity to guest edit Industrial and Labor Relations Review as an International Advisory Board Member of British Journal of Industrial Relations. Additionally, Mas served as a co-organizer for a National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) project. He was also a member of the Program Committee of the Econometric Society North American Winter Meeting and the National Longitudinal Survey Technical Review.

Prior to teaching, Mas was Chief Economist of the U.S. Department of Labor. He also was an Associate Director for Economic Policy and Chief Economist for the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. That position worked exclusively with the Executive Office of the President.   

Mas’ work has earned much recognition. He is a recipient of the Excellence in Refereeing Award, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Grant, the IZA Young Labor Economist Award, and the Haas School of Business Schwabacher Fellowship Award. 

Outstanding Economist: Read about Alexandre Mas.

Dean Karlan, Ph.D. — Solutions for Global Poverty

Dean Karlan, Ph.D. is the founder of Innovations for Poverty Action
Dean Karlan, Ph.D.

At Northwestern University, Dean Karlan is a Professor of Economics and Finance.  He is also the founder of Innovations for Poverty Action, a non-profit aimed at discovering solutions to global poverty. His research primarily focuses on microeconomic issues such as poverty and understanding methods that work and do not work at alleviating poverty. Ultimately, Karlan seeks to gain a better understanding of household and entrepreneurial finance and charitable giving.

He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and two master’s degrees, including an MBA, from the University of Chicago. Then, he moved to the Massachusettes Insitute of Technology to complete his Ph.D.  

Karlan has published numerous books, book chapters, working papers, and peer-reviewed journal articles.  Additionally, he is part of the Advisory Board of the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors for the MIT Jameel Poverty Action Lab. His work outside of teaching also includes contributing to Behavioral Science and Policy Journal as Senior Editor.

For his work, Karlan received many awards. His collection includes the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers and the National Science Foundation CAREER Award. He also won a USAID Private Sector Development Impact Assessment and held a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship.

Outstanding Economist: Read about Dean Karlan.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Ph.D. — Uncertainty in Economics

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Ph.D. studies randomness, probability and uncertainty in economics
Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Ph.D.

As an economist who focuses primarily on randomness, probability, and uncertainty, Nassim Taleb is most famous for his five-volume philosophical essay collection, Incerto. The collection contains Fooled by Randomness, The Black Swan, The Bed of Procrustes, Antifragile, and Skin in the Game.

Taleb earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Paris. He received his MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Then, he returned to the University of Paris to complete his Ph.D.

One of Taleb’s central arguments throughout his works is that biological, economic, and variety of other systems have the ability to benefit from volatility. He believes in bottom-up knowledge. Furthermore, he highlights the errors that occur when comparing real-world randomness with theoretical randomness, such as the case of quantum physics.

For his work, he has been included on the Forbes list of “Most Influential Management Gurus” and named as one of Bloomberg’s “50 Most Influential People in Global Finance.” Additionally, he is among the “100 Most Influential Thought Leaders in the World” per the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute. Taleb also earned the Wolfram Innovator Award for contributions to economics in the real of decision-making.

Outstanding Economist: Read about Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

Douglas Almond, Ph.D. — Health and Economic Outcomes

Douglas Almond, Ph.D. is an outstanding economist
Douglas Almond, Ph.D.

An Associate Professor of Economics at Columbia University, Douglas Almond’s research primarily focuses on the determinants and consequences of childhood health. He aims to understand how health improvements and adult health ultimately affect economic outcomes. 

He earned his bachelor’s degree from Carleton College where he was a William Carleton Scholar. Almond went on to obtain his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. Currently, he holds multiple roles as a Senior Scholar at the Opportunity and Inclusive Growth Institute, a Visiting Professor at Uppsala University, and a Research Associate at NBER, in addition to his Columbia tenure. He is also an Associate Editor for the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy

Previously, Almond was an Economics Advisor for the Sustainable Development Ph.D. Program and the Co-Director of the IGC Climate Change, Environment, and Natural Resources Research Program. He was also a Fulbright Scholar at Beijing University. 

Almond is widely published both with peer-reviewed articles and working papers. Furthermore, he is a recipient of a plethora of grants from organizations such as the National Science Foundation, the Center for Development Economics and Policy, and the SIPA Faculty Grants Program. Additionally, he earned a variety of awards like the HCUP Outstanding Article of the Year Award, the Paola Timiras Award for Research and Aging, and the National Institute of Aging Fellowship.

Outstanding Economist: Read about Douglas Almond.

Francesca Molinari, Ph.D. — Econometric Theory and Application

Francesca Molinari, Ph.D. studies econometrics
Francesca Molinari, Ph.D.

At Cornell University, Francesca Molinari is an H.T. Warshow and Robert Irving Warshow Economics Professor. Her research focuses on econometrics both in theory and application. She ultimately aims to understand the estimation of risk and preferences. 

She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Turin in Italy (Universita deli Studi di Torino). Of note, her master’s program was part of the Consortium for Research and Continuing Education in Economics (CORIPE) Piemonte at the university. She went on to obtain her Ph.D. from Northwestern University. 

Molinari has published a multitude of books related to risk and randomness. She is also the author of many working papers and peer-reviewed articles. Furthermore, her collaboration on various software developments has proven useful for analyzing economics. 

Her research support is from grants through entities such as the ISS, the National Science Foundation, and many more. Moreover, she was a CeMMAP International Fellow. She earned the Robert and Helen Appel Fellowship for Humanists and Social Scientists and the Zellner Thesis Award for Best Thesis in Business and Economics Statistics by the American Statistical Association, too.

Currently, she acts as Foreign Editor of the Review of Economic Studies. Beyond this and her teaching commitments, she is a Board of Editors Member for the Journal of Economic Literature and is Associate Editor of Econometrica, the Journal of Econometric Methods, Journal of Econometrics, and the Journal of Business and Economics Statistics.

Outstanding Economist: Read about Francesca Molinari.

Nadarajan “Raj” Chetty, Ph.D. — Economic Equality

Nadarajan "Raj" Chetty, Ph.D. heads the Equality of Opportunity Project
Nadarajan “Raj” Chetty, Ph.D.

Raj Chetty is a William A. Ackman Professor of Public Economics at Harvard University. Additionally, he is the head of the Equality of Opportunity Project. This entity utilizes big data to understand what changes can be implemented to give children from disadvantaged backgrounds a greater chance of success. Of note, his primary interest in research is economic mobility.

Interestingly, Chetty received both his bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. from Harvard. His commitment to the university as an instructor and project lead is truly unwavering. He is one of the youngest tenured professors in Harvard’s history.

Beyond his Harvard posts, he is Co-Director of the Public Economics Program for the National Bureau of Economic Research. At NBER, he is also a Faculty Research Fellow and Research Associate. Moreover, Chetty acts as an advisory editor of the Journal of Public Economics. His personal published works include numerous peer-reviewed articles, working papers, and book chapters. 

For his work in the field and contributions to education, Chetty received many awards. His collection includes the Sherwin Rosen Prize of the Society of Labor Economics, the Padma Shri Award of the Government of India, and the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.  He is also a Member of the National Academy of Sciences. Perhaps his most significant recognition is the John Bates Clark Medal as it is only given to economists under 40 whose work made a significant contribution.

Outstanding Economist: Read about Raj Chetty.

Parag Pathak, Ph.D. — Microeconomics

Parag Pathak, Ph.D. studies microeconomics
Parag Pathak, Ph.D.

At MIT, Parag Pathak is the Jane Berkowitz Carlton and Dennis William Carlton Professor of Microeconomics.  He is also the co-director and founder of the NBER Working Group on Market Design and the founder of MIT’s School Effectiveness and Inequality Initiative. Additionally, he serves as the Deputy Director of the MIT Integrated Learning Initiative.

Pathak remained at Harvard University from his baccalaureate coursework through his doctoral program. The Initiative he leads functions as his lab and focuses research on income distribution, human capital, and education.

For his work in microeconomics, he received the John Bates Clark Medal. He is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Econometric Society. Moreover, the International Monetary Fund named him a “Top 25 Economists under age 45.”

In addition to his MIT commitments, Pathak is a Member of the Scientific Board of the Institute of Innovation in Public School Choice and Associate Editor of the Journal of Political Economy. His published work includes many peer-reviewed journals. For these projects, he received several grants from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the Institute for Education Sciences, to name a few.

Outstanding Economist: Read about Parag Pathak.

Matthew Gentzkow, Ph.D. — Political Economy

Matthew Gentzkow, Ph.D. is an outstanding economist
Matthew Gentzkow, Ph.D.

Although Matthew Gentzkow’s primary role is a Professor of Economics at Stanford University, he serves in several other capacities. At Stanford, he is a Senior Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research in addition to his professorship. With the NBER, he is a research associate with the Steering Committee of Industrial Organization. Additionally, he is an Associate for the Toulouse Network for Information Technology and a Fellow of the CESifo Research Network.

He earned his all three of his major degrees, including his doctorate, from Harvard University. His research on the empirical industrial organization and political economy is largely published and awarded.  

Gentzkow is the author of a large body of work that includes journal articles and book chapters.  For these efforts, he received recognitions such as the Chicago Booth Faculty Excellence Award, the Robert H. Durr Award, the John Bates Clark Medal, and the Calvo-Armengol International Prize. Moreover, his research garnered support from organizations like the Sloan Foundation, the National Institute of Aging, the Stanford Cyber Initiative, and the National Science Foundation

Beyond his numerous commitments, he organizes conferences. Past events that he hosted include the Stanford Media Research Forum and the NBER Winter IO Meeting. With his expertise and heavy involvement in the field, he is also often a guest speaker and lecturer at various events in the economics community.

Outstanding Economist: Read about Matthew Gentzkow.


  • Created by professionals with the intent of helping others become professionals, Direct Knowledge began by simply pulling together the best articles and media it could find. The company was officially founded on November 10, 2017 by a professor who wanted to share his knowledge with anyone. With an academic background and a passion for professional and individual development, the Direct Knowledge mission started with one passion: grow knowledge and offer a comprehensive place to learn, discuss, and network.

1 thought on “Outstanding Economists (10 Phenomenal Careers)”

  1. These economists have contributed to our society in immense ways. Dr. Taleb in finding that different subjects can benefit from volatility is prevalent today, especially in the stock market. Dr. Karlan’s work in trying to find the solution to poverty is exceptional and shows the power of economics. These economists have contributed to our society in immense ways. Dr. Taleb in finding that different subjects can benefit from volatility is prevalent today, especially in the stock market. Dr. Karlan’s work in trying to find the solution to poverty is exceptional and shows the power of economics.


Leave a Comment