Brown economist named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People of 2022

Professor of Economics Emily Oster received the distinction for her work in translating data into simple, rational guidance for parents worldwide.

Ranking among the likes of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Apple CEO Tim Cook and producer and host Oprah Winfrey, Brown University Professor of Economics Emily Oster was named one of TIME’s Most Influential People of 2022.

This year’s edition of the annual list — known as the TIME 100 — released on Monday, May 23, honors the most influential people of the year, with renowned guest contributors penning tributes to each of the winners.

Perhaps most widely known for her best-selling parenting books “Expecting Better,” “Cribsheet” and “The Family Firm,” Oster employs data-driven approaches to help new parents wade through a sea of often-contradictory advice to make better-informed decisions for their families. She conducts extensive research on everything from infant mortality to social determinants of health and sends out a twice-weekly newsletter about data, pregnancy and parenting.

Oster also serves as the executive director of the COVID-19 School Data Hub, which integrates data from state agencies to provide families, researchers and policymakers a detailed, school-by-school look at which schools and districts operated in person, virtually or in hybrid mode throughout the 2020-21 school year; how COVID-19 case rates rose and fell during that time; and, in some cases, how the pandemic affected enrollment and standardized test scores.

“It’s been a tremendous privilege over the last decade since my first book came out, and especially in the last few years, to be able to use insights from data to help families make decisions they are happy with,” Oster said. “This is an incredible — and, frankly, shocking — honor. My best hope is I can use it to bring the power of data to even more new parents.”

TIME 100 alumnus Steven Pinker, a professor of psychology at Harvard University, public intellectual and prolific author of works such as “How the Mind Works” and “The Blank Slate,” wrote Oster’s tribute, praising her for the way she communicates how data can be a humanizing force.

“In best-selling books, her popular newsletter and social media, Oster weighs trade-offs, distinguishes trivial from substantial risks and evaluates evidence for causation in a messy world,” Pinker wrote. “Enriching this analytical brilliance is the common sense and empathy that come from being a mother herself.”

Oster first arrived at Brown in 2015 as an associate professor of economics and in 2019 earned the distinction of being named a Royce Family Professor of Teaching Excellence. Prior to Brown, Oster taught on the faculty at the University of Chicago and served as a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research, with which she remains affiliated. She earned both a bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University.

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