Sendhil Mullainathan

Sendhil Mullainathan is a Professor of Economics at Harvard University. His real passion is behavioral economics. His work runs a wide gamut: the impact of poverty on mental bandwidth; whether CEO pay is excessive; using fictitious resumes to measure discrimination; showing that higher cigarette taxes makes smokers happier; modeling how competition affects media bias; and a model of coarse thinking. His latest research focuses on using machine learning and data mining techniques to better understand human behavior.

He enjoys writing, having recently co-authored Scarcity: Why Having too Little Means so Much and writes regularly for the New York Times.

He helped co-found a non-profit to apply behavioral science (ideas42), co-founded a center to promote the use of randomized control trials in development (the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab), serves on the board of the MacArthur Foundation, and has worked in government in various roles, including most recently as Assistant Director of Research at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

He is a recipient of the MacArthur “genius” Award, has been designated a “Young Global Leader” by the World Economic Forum, labeled a “Top 100 Thinker” by Foreign Policy Magazine, and named to the “Smart List: 50 people who will change the world” by Wired Magazine (UK). His hobbies include basketball, board games, googling and fixing-up classic espresso machines.

Content by Sendhil Mullainathan
  • Data Item

    Data: Sugar mills: Ownership, productivity and crop choice

    An old theoretical and empirical literature has struggled with how ownership structure affects economic outcomes. We seek to answer this question by examining the effect that different ownership structures have on the outcomes of sugarcane farmers in India. The econometric strategy exploits the zoning system - whereby farmers living within a zone are forced to sell sugar to...

    27 Feb 2019

  • Blog post

    Low caloric intake and poverty among cycle-rickshaw peddlers in India

    Improved nutrition has been found to have positive impacts on the earnings, cognitive function, and decision-making of the poor. This holds great potential if complemented by nutrition education, and supported by policy and government investment. One-seventh of the world’s population consumes fewer calories than recommended by health officials. In India, this number is...

    24 Aug 2017 | Sendhil Mullainathan, Heather Schofield

  • Project

    Causes and consequences of low caloric intake in India: Nutrition, productivity and cognition

    Many of the world’s poor consume very few calories. Because calories are not just consumption, but also an input into production, this low consumption has the potential to dampen labor productivity and impede decision-making. Low caloric intake may therefore play a key role in the productive capacity of the world’s poorest and the firms which hire them. Economic theory...

    2 Feb 2016 | Sendhil Mullainathan, Heather Schofield

  • Project

    Sugar mills: Ownership, productivity and crop choice

    In this era of food price inflation, developing country governments are increasingly concerned about agricultural productivity. Shaping the institutional structure of agricultural markets – that is, deciding whether agricultural processing plants should be run by the government, producer cooperatives, or private individuals – represents an important potential policy...

    4 Sep 2014 | Sandip Sukhtankar, Sendhil Mullainathan

  • Publication - Working Paper

    Ownership Structure and Economic Outcomes (Working Paper)

    28 Mar 2011 | Sendhil Mullainathan, Sandip Sukhtankar

  • Publication - Policy Brief

    Ownership Structure and Economic Outcomes (Policy Brief)

    1 Mar 2011 | Sendhil Mullainathan, Sandip Sukhtankar