Jesse Bruhn

Jesse Bruhn is a recent PhD alum, graduating in 2018, and is currently an Assistant Professor in Economics at Brown University. Recently the department interviewed Jesse to get his perspective on what makes BU’s PhD in Economics program stand out:

Why did you choose to get your PhD at BU?

Jesse: After I graduated from the undergraduate program at U-Mass, I initially worked as a Math teacher. During that time, I loved interacting with the kids I taught, and I took great pride in my work in the classroom, but I also felt a strong desire to work to improve the education system beyond my classroom walls. I have always believed that education is one of the most important channels we have in the United States for addressing social ills like poverty and inequality, and so it is crucial that we design an education system that uses the scarce resources we allocate to it in the most productive way possible. As a result, I applied to the economics Ph.D. program at BU hoping that I would learn the skills I needed to be able to make a difference at this system wide level by contributing research on the economics of education and education policy.

How was your experience in the program?

I had an incredible experience in the Ph.D. program at BU. The intellectual life of the department is amazing. The faculty provided me with a lot of attention and support that was crucial to my development as an economist. I always felt like the faculty had time to meet with me. The seminar culture was supportive and positive. The student run reading groups were lively and a great place to work out early stage ideas or get feedback on work in progress. And I have made some lifelong friendships with many of the individuals who graduated in my cohort. Whether it was grabbing a beer to blow off steam after a tough mid-term, asking for advice on a tricky coding challenge, or spontaneously sounding out a new idea in the basement after I read an interesting newspaper article, the peer effects were real and every bit as important as my time with the faculty. Overall, I just think BU is a great community, and I feel super privileged to have been a part of it.

What have you been up to since you graduated?

After graduation, I spent a year working as a post-doctoral fellow at the Industrial Relations section in the Economics Department at Princeton. While there, I primarily spent time preparing my dissertation chapters for submission to journals. I also released my first NBER working paper which felt like a major career milestone, and it was recently written about by Forbes! ( While at Princeton, I also managed to secure some funding to travel to Chicago to do some qualitative work interviewing gang members and Chicago Police officers in support of my research on gang violence. More recently, I have moved to Rhode Island and started my position as an Assistant Professor in the Economics department at Brown where I am currently starting some new work looking at how gang activity influences the life trajectory of children.