John N. Friedman

Briger Family Distinguished Professor of Economics and International and Public Affairs, Chair of the Economics Department
Robinson Hall Room 304B
Research Interests Inequality & Poverty, International Institutions, Political Economy, Race, Identity & Ethnicity, Social Movements, Urban Policies & Politics, Urbanization
Areas of Interest Public Economics and Political Economy


John N. Friedman is a Professor of Economics at Brown University, as well as a founding co-director of Opportunity Insights. His studies the causes and consequences of inequality for kids, as well as policies to improve opportunities for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. His work has appeared in top academic journals as well as in major media outlets, has been cited by President Obama in his 2012 State of the Union Address, and has shaped policies at the federal, state, and local levels.  Most recently, John and his colleagues at Opportunity Insights have published the research paper "Diversifying Society’s Leaders? The Determinants and Causal Effects of Admission to Highly Selective Private Colleges" which addresses the issue that highly selective private colleges currently amplify the persistence of privilege across generations, but could diversify the socioeconomic backgrounds of America’s leaders by changing their admissions practices. He worked as Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy at the National Economic Council in the White House. He is also a Research Associate at NBER, a member of the Treasury Advisory Council on Racial Equity for the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and co-editor of the  American Economic Review. He became the Economics Department Chair in July 2021.


Friedman's 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.


"Diversifying Societies Leaders? The Determinants and Causal Effects of Admissions to Highly Selective Private Colleges joint with Raj Chetty, John Friedman and David J. Deming, July 2023

Real-time economics: A new platform to track the impacts of COVID-19 on people, businesses, and communities using private sector data NBER Working paper (2020)

The opportunity atlas: Mapping the childhood roots of social mobility National Bureau of Economic Research (2018)

The Opportunity Atlas: Mapping the Childhood Roots of Social Mobility NBER (2018)


ECON 1000, ECON 0180A, MPA 2455, ECON 2485, ECON 2930

Recent News

In an interview with WGBH, John Friedman discusses a study he co-authored showing that standardized test scores are a much stronger indicator of success in higher education than grade point averages alone.
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