Jonathan Guryan

Associate Professor of Human Development and Social Policy | Chair of IPR’s Program on Education Policy


Economist Jonathan Guryan’s work spans various topics related to labor markets, education policy, and social interaction. His research interests include the labor market for teachers, social interactions in the workplace, occupational licensure, youth violence, and lottery gambling. He also studies race and discrimination in the labor market and in education. In recent projects, he has investigated the extent to which labor market competition can eliminate racial discrimination in hiring and the effects of teacher testing on the type and quality of new teachers.

Guryan is a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He also serves as a research consultant for the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and as an associate editor of Labour Economics. His research has received support from the Smith Richardson Foundation, W. T. Grant Foundation, National Science Foundation, and Institute for Education Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education. In 2009, he received the John T. Dunlop Outstanding Scholar Award from the Labor and Employment Relations Association. Before joining Northwestern, he was on the faculty of the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

Current Research

Preventing Truancy in Urban Schools to Enhance Student Engagement and Learning. While urban high school dropouts have received a great deal of policy attention, the problem almost always starts much earlier with truancy from school. However, very little is known about the risk and protective factors that lead to truancy—and even less about effective remedies.

To shed light on this issue, Guryan is leading the first large-scale randomized effectiveness trial of Check & Connect, a structured mentoring, monitoring, and case management program. This intervention focuses on reducing chronic absenteeism and improving school engagement by pairing a mentor with students at risk for dropping out of school. It is one of the few interventions where positive effects for staying in school have been found, based on two small trial studies.

Guryan is studying second, third, fourth, and ninth graders who have a record of chronic absences in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) district, the country’s third largest. The study uses two-level randomization, across and within schools, to identify the intervention’s causal effects on the target students and other students within the same school. Researchers will start by randomly assigning between 450 and 700 CPS students to a Check & Connect mentor for two years. They will then compare the assigned students to control groups of more than 4,000 CPS students within the treatment and control schools. Other data, such as arrest records, will also be included, and researchers will conduct personal surveys with students and their parents to pinpoint changes in family structure and dynamics that might contribute to the student’s truancy.

Reducing Juvenile Delinquency by Building Noncognitive Skills. Each year between 300,000 and 600,000 youth spend time in juvenile detention facilities around the nation, with a disproportionate number being low-income and minority youth. Guryan and Jens Ludwig of the University of Chicago have undertaken a new project to examine the underlying problems that cause youth to become involved with delinquency and violence. Previous research indicates that deficits in noncognitive skills—such as self-regulation, impulse control, social information processing and moral reasoning—might account for involvement with and relapses into delinquency. Using a randomized experimental design, Guryan and Ludwig will begin collecting data on all the approximately 4,000 male juveniles, most of whom are Latino or African American, entering a county juvenile detention system over 14 months. These youth have been randomly assigned to either a typical residential center or one providing a cognitive behavioral therapy intervention to promote noncognitive skill development.

Reducing the Achievement Gap in Reading through READS, a Voluntary Summer Reading Program. Once children enter school, a reading gap between students of high and low socioeceonomic status (SES) appears and begins to grow, likely exacerbated by the loss of instruction over the summer months for low SES students. Guryan is leading a five-year, multi-district randomized controlled trial to implement and evaluate the READS program, Reading Enhances Achievement During the Summer, developed by James Kim of Harvard University. The program, which has to date shown moderate effectiveness in reducing “summer loss” and improving reading, will be administered to approximately 10,000 students in 70 North Carolina elementary schools over the course of the study. Students are sent two books biweekly over summer break. Matched to student interests and reading level, the books are also paired with family activities to support summer reading. Members of the control group receive the books and activities at the start of school. Pre- and posttests as well as reading tests are used to measure impact. In addition to monitoring student achievement and overall progress, Guryan will also examine different variations of READS that could improve its effectiveness, measure cost-effectiveness, and identify those elements useful for replicating and further expanding the program.

Selected Publications

Journal Articles

Charles, K., and J. Guryan. 2011. Studying discrimination: Fundamental challenges and recent progress. Annual Review of Economics 3(1): 479–511.

Guryan, J., and M. Kearney. 2010. Is lottery gambling addictive? American Economic Journal: Economic Policy 2(3): 90-110.

Kim, J., and J. Guryan. 2010. The efficacy of a voluntary summer book reading intervention for low-income Latino children from language minority families. Journal of Educational Psychology 102(1): 20-31.

Guryan, J., K. Kroft, and M. Notowidigdo. 2009. Peer effect in the workplace: Evidence form random groupings in professional golf tournaments. American Journal of Applied Economics 1(4): 34-68.

Deschênes, O., M. Greenstone, and J. Guryan. 2009. Climate change and birth weight. American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings 99(2): 211-17.           

Guryan, J. , and K. Charles. 2008. Prejudice and wages: An empirical assessment of Becker’s The Economics of Discrimination. Journal of Political Economy 116(5): 773-809.

Angrist, J., and J. Guryan. 2008. Does teacher testing raise teacher quality? Evidence from teacher certification requirements. Economics of Education Review 27(5): 483-503.