Ronald Ferguson Photo
Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy
79 John F. Kennedy St. Taubman Bldg 474
Assistant: Edward Walker

Ronald F. Ferguson is an MIT-trained economist who focuses social science research on economic, social, and educational challenges.  He has been on the faculty at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government since 1983, after full time appointments at Brandeis and Brown Universities. In 2014, he co-founded Tripod Education Partners and shifted into an adjunct role at the Kennedy School, where he remains a fellow at the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy and faculty director of the university-wide Achievement Gap Initiative (AGI).

During the 1980s and ‘90s Ron focused much of his attention on economic and community development. That work culminated in the social science synthesis volume Urban Problems and Community Development (1999), which remains an important text in graduate policy courses.

By the late 1980s he had begun to study education and youth development because academic skill disparities were contributing to growing wage disparity. During the 1990s and early 2000s, his writings on the topic appeared in publications of the National Research Council, the Brookings Institution, the U.S. Department of Education, and various books and journals. In December 2007, Harvard Education Press published his book Toward Excellence with Equity: An Emerging Vision for Closing the Achievement Gap. A February 2011 profile of Ron in the New York Times wrote, “there is no one in America who knows more about the gap than Ronald Ferguson.”

Ron’s current focus as AGI director is an initiative entitled the Boston Basics that is spreading to other cities in a Basics National Network. It takes a socio-ecological saturation approach, collaborating with many partners to reach extended families with caregiving advice for infants and toddlers. In addition, Ron is co-authoring a book with journalist Tatsha Robertson on the ways that highly successful people were parented.

Ron holds an undergraduate degree from Cornell University and a PhD from MIT, both in economics. He has been happily married for 38 years and is the father of two adult sons.

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Book Chapters

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Transparent Engagement

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Outside Professional Activities For Ronald Ferguson

Ron Ferguson participates in a variety of public policy advising and consulting activities. He is a founding equity partner of Tripod Education Partners, Inc, which provides student and teacher surveys and related services to school districts in the U.S. and abroad. Tripod Education Partners is now home to the Tripod Project for School Improvement, which had been delivered in collaboration with Cambridge Education of Westwood MA fromm 2007 through 2014.  Professor Ferguson is a co-owner (along with Freshpond Education, Inc.) of Tripod Education Partners, Inc, which owns the intellectual property of the Tripod surveys developed over the past decade through work with school districts. Professor Ferguson is also on the Board of Directors of The Basics, Inc., which is a non-profit organization founded to disseminate "The Basics" of early childhood caregiving, a project which grew out of the work of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard, which he heads. There are currently 27 localities across the United States that are delivering the Basics in their communities as part of the Basics Learning Network. Professor Ferguson provides speaking and consulting services to some of these communities and often receives a consulting fee as compensation for that work. 


Phone: 617-495-1104
Office: 79 John F. Kennedy St. Taubman Bldg 474
Assistant: Edward Walker


Cities & Communities
Education, Training & Labor
Gender, Race & Identity
Poverty, Inequality & Opportunity
Social Policy

Mailing Address

Harvard Kennedy School
79 John F. Kennedy St.
Cambridge, MA 02138