Steven Neil Durlauf is the Steans Professor in Educational Policy and the Director of the Stone Center for Research on Wealth Inequality and Mobility at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy. Prior to this appointment, he was William F. Vilas Research Professor and Kenneth J. Arrow Professor of Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Durlauf received a BA in economics from Harvard in 1980, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and a Ph.D. in economics from Yale in 1986. He is a Fellow of the Econometric Society, a Fellow of the Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory, a Fellow of the International Association of Applied Econometrics, and a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2011.

Durlauf was Co-Director of the Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group from 2010 to 2022, an international research network linking scholars across disciplines in the study of inequality and the sources of human flourishing and destitution. Additionally, Durlauf served as Economics Program Director of the Santa Fe institute from 1996-1998.

Durlauf is currently a General Editor of the Elsevier Handbooks in Economics series. He was a General Editor of The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, revised edition, published in 2008, the most extensive compendium of economic knowledge in the world. He was also the Editor of the Journal of Economic Literature from 2013 to 2022.

Durlauf’s research spans many topics in economics. His most important substantive contributions involve the areas of poverty, inequality and economic growth. Much of his research has attempted to integrate sociological ideas into economic analysis. His major methodological contributions include both economic theory and econometrics. He helped pioneer the application of statistical mechanics techniques to the modelling of socioeconomic behavior and has also developed identification analyses for the empirical analogs of these models. Other research has focused on techniques for policy evaluation and the econometrics of cross-country income differences. Durlauf is also known as a critic of the use of the concept of social capital by social scientists and has also challenged the ways that agent-based modelling and complexity theory have been employed by social and natural scientists to study socioeconomic phenomena.

Featuring this expert

The Economics of Childhood

Video | Jul 19, 2023

If we can measure mobility, we can raise a better society.

Background Is Not Destiny

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Do we care about children, or do we just care about our own children?

How Kids Are Left Behind

Video | May 10, 2023

What’s really causing inequality in opportunities and outcomes for kids?

Membership Theory of Inequality

Video | Mar 15, 2017

A transition from the conventional policy of “redistributing income” to “redistributing membership”, could promote economic integration across communities and intergenerational mobility.