Richard J. Murnane

Juliana W. and William Foss Thompson Professor of Education and Society, Graduate School of Education, Harvard University; and Research Associate, National Bureau of Education Research
Areas of Expertise:
  • Inequality & the Middle Class
  • K-12 Education
  • School Reform
  • Jobs & Workers
  • Science & Technology

Connect with Richard

About Richard

Murnane’s areas of expertise include: the impact of technological change on the skills required to earn a decent living, how increases in family income inequality have affected educational opportunities for children from low-income families, the effectiveness of alternative strategies to improve the performance of the U.S. education system, trends and patterns in U.S. high school graduation rates and their explanations, and strategies for examining the causal impacts of policy interventions. His civic involvements include work with the Boston Public Schools and service on National Research Council and U.S. Department of Education committees.


How Computers are Transforming American Jobs

  • Frank Levy



Dancing with Robots (with Frank Levy) (Third Way Foundation, 2013).
Discusses the profound impact that advances in computerization are having on modern life while detailing how technological change has created dislocations in the labor market, especially the elimination of routine-cognitive and routine-manual tasks that provided work for generations of high school graduates.
The New Division of Labor: How Computers are Creating the Next Job Market (with Frank Seth Levy) (Princeton University Press, 2004).
Explains how computer-based technological changes have altered the skills that American workers need to earn a good living.
Methods Matter: Improving Causal Inference in Educational and Social Science Research (with John B. Willett) (Oxford University Press, 2011).
Uses numerous examples of high-quality studies that have evaluated the causal impacts of important educational interventions to describe new analytical methods in detail; also discusses the controversies surrounding each study, and provides heuristic explanations that are broadly accessible.
"U.S. High School Graduation Rates: Patterns and Explanations" Journal of Economic Literature 51, no. 2 (June 2013): 370-422.
Describes six key patterns in U.S. high school graduation rates and the evidence explaining the patterns.
Restoring Opportunity: The Crisis of Inequality and the Challenge for American Education (with Greg Duncan) (Harvard Education Press, forthcoming).
Explains how increases in family income inequality have reduced opportunities for children from low-income families to obtain the skills needed to thrive in a rapidly changing U.S. economy and describes interventions in the domains of early childhood, elementary school, high schools, and family supports that have proven effective in increasing the life chances of low-income children. The book concludes with a description of building blocks for making such interventions part of the life experiences of more low-income children.

In the News

"Recent Job Gains Conceal a Harsh Truth," Richard J. Murnane (with Frank Levy), New York Times, December 12, 1993.
"Why Money Matters Sometimes: A Two-Part Management Lesson from East Austin, Texas," Richard J. Murnane (with Frank Levy), Education Week, September 11, 1996.
"Money's Only One Lure to Would-Be Teachers," Richard J. Murnane, Boston Sunday Globe, July 12, 1998.
"Test Scores are a Poor Way to Evaluate Classroom Performance. How to Judge Teachers," Richard J. Murnane, Boston Globe, January 28, 1999.
"The Increasing Role of the GED in American Education," Richard J. Murnane (with John H. Tyler), Education Week, May 3, 2000.
"When 19 Heads are Better than One," Richard J. Murnane (with Kathryn P. Boudett and Elizabeth A. City), Education Week, December 7, 2005.
"Are Public-Service Subsidies Good for the Public?," Richard J. Murnane (with Jennifer L. Steele and John B. Willett), Education Week, July 14, 2010.
Richard J. Murnane's research on job loss due to automation discussed in Jim Tankersley. Richard J. Murnane (with Frank Levy), "Have the Robots Come for the Middle Class?," Washington Post, July 12, 2013.