Harvard economist Raj Chetty believes that there’s a way to push past America’s political divide: data.
Mr. Chetty, head of the Harvard-based research group Opportunity Insights, has amassed a powerhouse of information drawing on everything from I.R.S. tax filings to credit card spending. Armed with that data, he’s able to understand whether meritocracy — or inequality — determines the economic fate of Americans. He’s also able to translate datapoints into accessible visualizations and concrete policy proposals.
In this episode of Sway, Mr. Chetty draws on data to answer questions like what age a person’s future has been largely determined (around 23), which ZIP codes provide the most economic opportunity (including some in rural Iowa), and what stands between a third-grader who will grow up to become an inventor and one who will not.
Mr. Chetty’s own trajectory was shaped by a move his parents made when he was 9 years old — from India to the U.S. — to pursue the American dream. His datasets reveal that this American dream is fading for future generations. But Mr. Chetty is determined to revive it. And given his influence on the future president, the economist may finally have his chance.