fbpx Q&A with Desmond Ang: Providing the tools for evidence-based policy solutions | Harvard Kennedy School

Desmond Ang has joined Harvard Kennedy School as assistant professor of public policy. Ang, who received his PhD in economics from the University of California, San Diego this year, brings an economist’s eye to issues of race, inequality, and justice. His research examines the educational consequences of police violence and the long-run effects of federal oversight under the Voting Rights Act. Ang, who will be affiliated with the Taubman Center for State and Local Government, will be teaching Empirical Methods II (API-202) in the Spring 2019 semester. We caught up with him to ask about his work, his teaching, and his interests.


Q: What’s the most interesting thing you’ve ever come across in your work?

What I’ve found most interesting is just how stark the lines of race and ethnicity are. While it seems obvious in many ways, the extent to which the same events or policies may affect people of different skin colors so disparately is truly sobering. It’s something that comes up again and again in my research and serves to highlight the need for diversity at every level of policymaking.



Q: What’s the most important thing a student will learn in your class?

A common thread binding Kennedy School students is the desire to change the world, and many of the issues that they hope to tackle are deeply personal. At the same time, the supply of information (and misinformation) and need for objective analysis have never been greater. I hope that my students will learn that advocacy and analysis are not incompatible concepts, and that they will gain the tools and perspective necessary to channel their passion towards evidence-based policy solutions.


Q: How do your research and teaching connect to the solution of pressing problems in the world today?

I hope that my research contributes in some small way to the issues surrounding race, discrimination, and inequality that many of my HKS colleagues like Devah Pager, Khalil Muhammad, and William Julius Wilson have been speaking about with far more eloquence and insight. If anything, I hope that by quantifying, for example, the educational impacts of police violence my work will provide policymakers with the data they need to make informed decisions and that, at the same time, it will serve as an example of a broader, more inclusive understanding of economics.


Q: What’s the most interesting thing about you that’s not on your CV?

Growing up, I always wanted to be a veterinarian. Unfortunately, I’m severely allergic to animals and became an economist instead. In economics, we call that negative selection.

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