UC Berkeley education economist honored by academic academy

March 10, 2021
By: Bora Reed
rucker johnson smiles at the camera
Rucker Johnson is the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy. (Photo by Candace Johnson)

In recognition of “contributions that advance science and deepen public understanding of human behavior and social dynamics,” Rucker Johnson, the Chancellor’s Professor at the Goldman School of Public Policy, has been named a fellow in the 2021 class of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (AAPSS).

Johnson is a labor economist who specializes in the economics of education and examines the role of poverty and inequality in affecting life chances. He is the author of the book Children of the Dream: Why School Integration Works, which draws on decades-long studies to show that school integration measurably improved life outcomes for poor children while benefiting all children involved.

“At a moment in history when the nation has trapped its democracy, economy, and society in what feels like endless self-inflicted wounds, it falls on the social sciences to explain how the traps were set and where to find exit ramps,” said AAPS President Kenneth Prewitt, a professor of public affairs at Columbia University. “Each of our 2021 Fellows excels at exactly this.”

“Rucker Johnson is a cutting-edge empirical economist who has demonstrated the long-term improvements in life-chances for African Americans and poor people that follow from policies promoting integration, equitable school finance, and pre-school education,” said Henry E. Brady, dean of the Goldman School. “In Children of the Dream, he explains his empirical results through a powerful and exhilarating narrative that includes interviews with those who lived these reforms and case studies of cities that benefited from implementing them. We learn that public policies can truly make people’s lives better.”

“Professor Johnson’s research takes an impressively multi-disciplinary approach to examining the causes and consequences of inequality in our country,” says Hilary Hoynes, professor of public policy and economics. “In addition to being a preeminent scholar, he is a warm and generous human being. I know I speak for the entire Goldman School faculty when I say that it is a genuine pleasure to have him as a colleague and friend.”

Johnson earned his Ph.D. in economics at the University of Michigan. At UC Berkeley, he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in applied econometrics and topical courses in race, poverty and inequality.