In his nondescript office on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, nestled in a far-off corner of Harvard Square, Ben Olken ruminates on the economic consequences of tyrannicide, the damaging effects of television on social cohesion, and the byzantine system of bribery in Indonesia. Olken, a 32-year-old with an undergraduate degree from Yale (in mathematics and "ethics, politics, and economics") and an economics doctorate from Harvard, is a rising star in the field of developmental economics. Olken is currently a member of Harvard's Society of Fellows, a prestigious institution within the institution, where the best young scholars pursue what interests them. Among economists alone, former Junior Fellows include Paul Samuelson, Carl Kaysen, Jeffrey Sachs, Steven Levitt, and James Tobin.
Olken is "one of the most exciting young scholars in economics," his Harvard adviser, Lawrence F. Katz, former chief economist to the U.S. Labor Department, told The Chronicle of Higher Education. He is.