Four New Fellows Join IPR

New expertise in psychology, health, innovation, and economics added

new fellows

IPR Director David Figlio (second from left) welcomes new faculty fellows (from left) Mesmin Destin, Michael Frakes, and Matthew Notowidigdo. New fellow Cynthia Kinnan is not pictured. 

Four new fellows joined IPR at the start of the 2014–15 academic year: social psychologist Mesmin Destin, economists Cynthia Kinnan and Matthew Notowidigdo, and health and law scholar Michael Frakes.

These new scholars bring expertise in several exciting areas, said IPR Director David Figlio.

According to Figlio, Kinnan’s expertise in development economics, with projects in India, Thailand, and China, exemplifies IPR’s “bread-and-butter” social policy issues, globally writ. Destin’s research demonstrates a masterful grasp of transdisciplinary scholarship in psychology and human development—despite his relatively recent PhD. Frakes, who is in Northwestern’s Law School, and Notowidigdo, who along with Kinnan will be based in economics, are exploring important facets of health and innovation policy.

They will help to strengthen long-standing ties between IPR and their respective schools and departments, Figlio continued—including reinforcing research connections with the University’s Chicago campus. Frakes, who is based in Chicago, will also have an IPR office in Evanston.

“Put together, these four early and mid-career scholars represent much of what is so great about Northwestern,” Figlio commented. “We are thrilled that they have joined the IPR family.”

Destin and Kinnan, already at the University, were previously IPR associates. Notowidigdo joined from the University of Chicago, and Frakes came from Cornell University.

Mesmin Destin – Psychology and the School of Education and Social Policy

Mesmin Destin
       Mesmin Destin

Destin, a social psychologist, is particularly interested in the ways that young people think about barriers and opportunities to future economic success in life, which can be directly linked to their identities, mindsets, and educational motivation.


Destin studies such topics in laboratory settings in Northwestern’s Status, Cognition, and Motivation Lab, which he directs, as well as through field experiments and assessments of social psychological interventions amongst youth from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.

Some of his recent research projects have detailed the success of a novel one-hour “diversity education” intervention to help first-generation students successfully transition to college, investigated how subjective social status affects high schoolers’ academic achievement, and examined how children’s savings accounts can be used to promote college-going and better outcomes.

His research has been published in Psychological Science and the Journal of Adolescence, among others. Destin joined Northwestern’s faculty in 2010 after receiving his PhD in psychology from the University of Michigan.

Michael Frakes - Law

Trained as a lawyer and an economist, Frakes’ research interests fall primarily into two areas, health law and innovation policy.

      Michael Frakes

His research on health largely focuses on understanding how certain legal and financial incentives might affect the decisions of physicians and other healthcare providers. Some of his past studies have investigated medical liability standards and physicians’ behavior and the relevance of medical malpractice law.

In terms of innovation policy, his research centers on the relationship between the financing of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) and key aspects of its decision making. A recent quasi-experiment, forthcoming in the Stanford Law Review, links a possible rise in invalid patent awards granted by the PTO to the agency's desire to prevent applicants from utilizing costly repeat-filing tools upon rejections of their applications.

Frakes previously taught at Cornell’s and Harvard’s law schools, after receiving his law degree from Harvard University and his PhD in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a faculty research fellow at NBER and worked for Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, and Flom, one of the nation’s largest law firms, from 2005–07 in New York.

Cynthia Kinnan - Economics

       Cynthia Kinnan

A development economist, Kinnan's research focuses on how households in developing countries use financial products and informal insurance networks to invest, save, and cope with risk. Her interests extend, in particular, to what causes missing markets—when a good or service is in demand but not supplied, the interaction between risk and household investment, the role of social networks, and microfinance in emerging markets.

Her current research projects include a large-scale evaluation of health insurance in Karnataka, India; an evaluation of the impact of financial services on the informal networks of adopting households; and a study of the long-term effects of microcredit on business growth, household welfare, and social networks.

Kinnan is a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) and a faculty affiliate at the Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). She was a visiting scholar at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government for the 2013–14 academic year.

She received her PhD in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before joining Northwestern in 2010. Her work has been published in the American Economic Journal – Applied Economics and the American Economic Review.

Matthew Notowidigdo - Economics

  Matthew Notowidigdo

Focusing on labor and health economics, Notowidigdo’s recent journal articles include investigations of how tax rebates affect consumer bankruptcy filings, as well as the relationship between public health insurance and labor supply.

He recently won the 2014 Hicks-Tinbergen Award from the European Economic Association for an article examining whether a person’s health affects his or her consumption of goods and services, an important factor for health insurance and transfer programs.  

In another project, the applied microeconomist explores the weakness of the labor market following the Great Recession. Notowidigdo and colleagues find that the housing boom—and the associated boom in construction work—“masked” higher unemployment in manufacturing jobs from 2000–07, especially among men without college degrees. They predict that high unemployment for non-college workers will continue despite tax credits and other temporary programs to boost employment.

Notowidigdo joined Northwestern’s economics department as an associate professor from the University of Chicago and is an NBER research associate. He received his PhD in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2010 and also holds degrees in computer engineering and computer science.

For more information about these and other IPR fellows, see