About me

Chris Blattman

I’m an economist and political scientist who studies conflict, crime, and poverty. I work in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and more recently in Chicago. I’m the Ramalee E. Pearson Professor of Global Conflict Studies at The University of Chicago, in Harris Public Policy and The Pearson Institute. I’m an associate of the Political Science Department and a research associate at NBER.

The questions I’m most passionate about: Why are some people and societies poor, violent and oppressive? What leads people into poverty, violence, and crime? What events and interventions lead them out?

Most of my work involves field studies, surveys, natural experiments, and field experiments. I also have a growing interest in how machine learning methods can help tackle violence and poverty.

I talk about some of my recent work on the EconTalk and NPR Planet Money podcasts. My research is at the tab above. And if you want to get a sense of the big questions that interest me, see the syllabus and slides for my course on Order & Violence. The subtitle for the class was “Why are some places poor, violent and oppressive and what (if anything) can you do about it?” I’m working on the book.

I have been at the University of Chicago since 2016. Before that, I was an Associate Professor of International Affairs and Political Science at Columbia University, and an Assistant Professor of Political Science and Economics at Yale. I have a PhD in Economics from UC Berkeley, a MPA/ID from Harvard’s Kennedy School, and a BA in Economics from the University of Waterloo.

In my pre-academic life I was a business consultant and (believe it or not) an accountant for Deloitte & Touche. But the best jobs I ever held were (a) rock-climbing instructor, and (b) music store salesman. (I have become considerably less cool since that time.)

In the end, though, my work ethic and habits derive from two years cooking chicken at a vaguely militant KFC outlet. After a manager resembling Hulk Hogan forces you to clean grease traps, you can handle pretty much anything.

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