Groundbreaking Economist, Raj Chetty, awarded RSA’s Prestigious Benjamin Franklin Medal - RSA

Groundbreaking Economist, Raj Chetty, awarded RSA’s Prestigious Benjamin Franklin Medal

Press release

On Thursday 16 May, the Royal Society of Arts presented Raj Chetty, groundbreaking economist and Director of Opportunity Insights, with its prestigious Benjamin Franklin Medal in recognition of his work as a leading force behind the science of leveraging social connections amongst people from different economic backgrounds to encourage opportunity.

 At a special ceremony hosted in New York City, Raj was presented with his award by RSA Chief Executive, Andy Haldane before an invited audience of RSA US Fellows, key figures from across government, academia, and a raft of leading social connection practitioners, including Thread, Braven, Project Weave, Rising Tide Capital and Guild.

This year’s ceremony also marked the launch of RSA’s Social Connections Program, coordinated by RSA US, to place social capital at the heart of economic thinking and action. At the event, social capital practitioners shared their insights and expertise to build a picture of the current global landscape, the impact of social capital work to date, and where more collaboration and leadership is needed.

Looking ahead, the RSA will work with partners and funders around the world to help create networks that grow social capital in local communities- building links between socio-economic groups for the benefit of businesses and individuals.

Now in its 68th year, the Benjamin Franklin Medal has recognised exceptional creativity and innovation since 1956, with recipients including jazz musician and composer, Herbie Hancock (2018), CEO of Teach for All, Wendy Kopp (2016), Head of TED, Chris Anderson (2015), and author, journalist and former CEO of CNN, Walter Isaacson (2013).

In his address at the Ceremony, Raj Chetty said:

“Social capital -- specifically, the degree to which children raised in lower-income families are connected to higher-income people who may provide job opportunities or shape aspirations -- is the strongest predictor of economic mobility identified to date. Providing social capital in the form of connections in addition to financial resources and education can greatly amplify the effectiveness of policies to increase upward income mobility”.

Raj Chetty is the William A. Ackman Professor of Economics at Harvard University and the Director of Opportunity Insights, which uses big data to study the science of economic opportunity, exploring bold new ways to give children from all backgrounds better chances of succeeding.

Chetty received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2003 and is one of the youngest tenured professors in Harvard’s history. He has received numerous awards for his research, including a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, the John Bates Clark medal, given to the economist under 40 whose work is judged to have made the most significant contribution to the field, and Harvard’s George Ledlie prize, awarded for research that made the most valuable contribution to science, or in any way for the benefit of mankind.

Andy Haldane, Chief Executive of the RSA, said:

“It is an honour to recognise Raj’s outstanding research and achievements in the field of social mobility. All of us here are delighted to recognise him in this way, and to welcome him as a lifelong Fellow.

“Working with our increasing numbers of Fellows across the US and globally, we are now putting this research to work in the field through our Social Connections programme, supporting social mobility and wellbeing in those places and for those people where it is most needed”.

For more information about the RSA, Design for Life mission, and the rich legacy of social innovation and impact throughout its history, visit our website.


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