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Economics professor Jesse Shapiro wins MacArthur Fellowship

Applied microeconomist will receive $625,000, no-strings-attached “genius grant”

<p>Shapiro’s previous projects have included research on the effects of the SNAP program and trends in Congressional partisanship.</p>

Shapiro’s previous projects have included research on the effects of the SNAP program and trends in Congressional partisanship.

The MacArthur Foundation has named Economics Professor Jesse Shapiro as one of its 25 MacArthur Fellows for 2021.

The MacArthur Fellowship awards $625,000 to its recipients over the course of five years. The foundation intends to facilitate creative work from talented individuals in a number of fields. 

Public Historian Monica Muñoz Martinez ’06 was also named as a fellow for her work on “long-obscured cases of racial violence along the U.S.-Mexico border and their reverberations in the present,” according to the MacArthur foundation website.

“The purpose of the MacArthur Fellows Program is to enable recipients to exercise their own creative instincts for the benefit of human society,” according to their website


As an applied microeconomist, Shapiro works to devise new frameworks of analysis to address complex social issues. His research centers around public policy, political polarization and news media.

“Applied microeconomics combines economic theory with data,” Shapiro wrote in an email to The Herald. “I think this is a very potent combination for understanding the social world.”

Shapiro has led a number of influential studies. In one, he and his collaborators used data from a grocery retail panel to study the impact of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program on household spending. In another, Shapiro and other researchers used data from the Congressional Record to measure trends in the partisanship of speech in Congress, according to Shapiro.

Before joining the Brown faculty in 2014, Shapiro was employed by the University of Chicago. He served as a fellow at the Becker Center on Chicago Price Theory from 2005 to 2008 and as an economics professor at the Booth School of Business from 2008 to 2014.

Shapiro explained that his time at Brown has impacted his research approach.

“Prior to coming to Brown, I tended to see my research and teaching as distinct activities,” Shapiro wrote. “Being at Brown has helped me see them as part of an integrated whole, with the goal of improving my understanding of issues and hopefully conveying that understanding to others.”

This perspective comes, in part, from his work at the Population Studies and Training Center, which fosters cross-disciplinary collaboration at the University.

“The energy and creativity that is part of an interdisciplinary community is intellectually fun,” PSTC Director Susan Short said. “Having colleagues like Jesse who do path-breaking research and are also committed teachers and mentors is what makes Brown special.”

Other colleagues expressed their excitement for Shapiro as well.

“Jesse Shapiro is a brilliant economist and outstanding colleague,” Economics Department Chair John Friedman said. “I learn something new about economics and the world every time I talk with him, and I am so happy for him.”


In addition, Shapiro has earned formal recognition from the University for his work; he won the Presidential Faculty Award in 2016.

Outside of his work at Brown, Shapiro has served as a research associate for the National Bureau of Economic Research since 2011.

Shapiro holds multiple degrees from Harvard. He received a bachelor of arts in economics in 2001, an master of arts in statistics in 2001 and a doctorate in economics in 2005. 

Whatever creative projects Shapiro decides to pursue in the future, the MacArthur Fellowship will allow him to take bold steps.

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“For me, a big part of my work is taking intellectual risks and working outside my comfort zone,” Shapiro wrote. “I hope the fellowship will help me do more of that.”

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