The Carnegie Corporation of New York released its annual list of Great Immigrants, Great Americans this week, honoring 38 naturalized citizens who enrich and strengthen the United States through their lives, their work, and their examples. Two of those honored are Harvard faculty members Sven Beckert and Raj Chetty.
Beckert, who was born in Germany, is the Laird Bell Professor of History, cochair of the Program on the Study of Capitalism at Harvard, and cochair of the Weatherhead Initiative on Global History. He teaches the history of the United States in the 19th century, with an emphasis on capitalism.
In 2007 and 2011, Beckert collaborated with a group of undergraduate students to examine the historical connections between Harvard University and the institution of slavery, including how Harvard benefited from endowments connected to the slave economy while also working to stifle debates about slavery and abolition. The resulting publication, Harvard and Slavery: Seeking a Forgotten History, propelled other efforts to examine and address the legacy of slavery at the university. As Beckert wrote in his introduction to the project, “We want to inspire others to dig deeper into this history, but even more so we want to encourage a broader debate on what this history means for us today.… It is the community as a whole that needs to decide what needs to be done.”
Chetty was born in India and moved to America with his family when he was 9 years old. He went on to earn his Ph.D. from Harvard at 23, joining the faculties at UC Berkeley and then Stanford University before going on to become one of the youngest professors to be granted tenure in Harvard’s history.
In addition to his position as the William A. Ackman Professor of Economics at Harvard, Chetty directs Opportunity Insights, a research lab that aims to identify barriers to economic and social mobility and develop scalable policy solutions to overcome them. Most recently, Chetty helped launch a resource to monitor the real-time economic impact of COVID-19 on people, businesses, and communities across the United States. This tool enables policymakers to make evidence-based decisions that balance vital public health priorities with the economic needs of their communities.