Dean Karlan serves as the Agency Chief Economist and leads USAID's Office of the Chief Economist.
Dean Karlan is the Frederic Esser Nemmers Distinguished Professor of Economics and Finance at Northwestern University, co-Director with Christopher Udry of the Global Poverty Research Lab at Northwestern University, and the Founder and former President of Innovations for Poverty Action, a non-profit organization dedicated to discovering and promoting solutions to global poverty problems. Karlan also previously served on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the M.I.T. Jameel Poverty Action Lab. In 2015, he also co-founded ImpactMatters, a nonprofit dedicated to estimating and rating impact of nonprofit organizations in order to help donors choose good charities and to promote more transparency in the nonprofit sector.
His research focuses on microeconomic issues of poverty, typically employing experimental methodologies and behavioral economics insights to examine what works, what does not, and why to address social problems. His work spans many geographies and topics, including sustainable income generation for those in abject poverty, credit and savings markets for low income households, agriculture for smallholder farmers, small and medium entrepreneurship and smoking cessation, and charitable giving. He has worked in over twenty countries around the world, including both low-income countries and the United States.
As a social entrepreneur, he co-founded stickK.com, a website that uses lessons from behavioral economics to help people reach personal goals, such as weight loss and smoking cessation, through commitment contracts.
In 2011, Karlan co-authored More Than Good Intentions: How a New Economics is Helping to Solve Global Poverty; in 2016 he co-authored Failing in the Field; in 2018 he co-authored The Goldilocks Challenge: Right-Fit Evidence for the Social Sector; and in 2020 he co-authored the third edition of a economics principles textbook, Economics.
Karlan received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He was awarded distinguished alumni awards from the University of Chicago Booth Graduate School of Business and the Duke University Talent Identification Program.
Previously, Karlan was the Samuel C Park, Jr Professor of Economics at Yale University, and Assistant Professor of Economics at Princeton University. Karlan received a Ph.D. in Economics from M.I.T., an M.B.A. and an M.P.P. from the University of Chicago, and a B.A. in International Affairs from the University of Virginia.