Faculty Spotlight

Jeffrey Clemens
Real-World Research

Jeffrey Clemens

The Department of Economics is pleased to welcome Jeffrey Clemens as the first new faculty member to join our department since 2010. Jeff comes to UC San Diego after 10 years at Harvard University – interrupted by a year as a reasearch assistant at the Council of Economic Advisors – earning both his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees in economics.


It wasn’t until his junior year as an undergraduate at Harvard that Jeff realized his true passion for economics. Public finance and economics of education courses really sparked his interest, but it took working as a research assistant at the Council of Economic Advisors for Jeff to commit to pursuing a doctorate. Exposure to tangible, real-world research made him realize he wanted to be an academic and helped him define a research area. As he recollected, “I’d enjoyed my research experiences as an undergraduate and watching the policy process in action made me realize how little we know about the effects and effectiveness of many policies. The policy process seemed so politically charged that it gave the possibility of studying the issues from an academic setting a lot of appeal.”

Currently, Jeff’s research focus is health-care legislation. He is particularly interested in health care and insurance because he believes the Affordable Care Act is at the center of the policy debate and Medicare is central to the long-run fiscal outlook. While a graduate student, Jeff found it impossible not to think about health insurance regulations and health-care financing. Now he believes that the unique construction of health-care policy provides a chance to conduct interesting research: “The markets for health care and health insurance involve so many deviations from the standard competitive framework that it seems like there’s an endless supply of interesting economic issues to consider.”

Outside of Academia

Outside the classroom, Jeff found interesting ways to spend his time while at Harvard. He was co-founder and an active member of the Harvard Ballooning Society (HBS). As far as he knows, HBS was the premier – indeed the only – collegiate hot-air ballooning club in the country. According to Jeff, starting the club was logical: “A college friend’s dad was a commercial hot-air balloon pilot, and my friend was in the process of getting his own commercial license. We got certified as a club sport and participated in several balloon festivals in an ‘official’ capacity. My status in the club never moved beyond pilot in training.”

After many years in Boston, Jeff is looking forward to sampling what San Diego has to offer. A self-professed “extremely amateur” backpacker, he would like to explore some of the canyons around San Diego. He also plans to join a recreational soccer league and hopes to learn how to surf.

Coming “Home”

Born and raised in Spokane, Washington, Jeff has an affinity for the West Coast. So, after eleven years on the East Coast earning his impressive education, Jeff came “home” to California.

UC San Diego was attractive for several reasons. First, Jeff’s parents, who still live in Spokane, were getting awfully tired of visiting Boston in the winter. Second, the department had a lot of people who had become familiar faces. Jeff had gotten to know Julie Cullen's and Roger Gordon's work at many conferences and thought they would be excellent colleagues. Additionally, three summers ago, Jeff came to UC San Diego for a weeklong program led by Eli Berman that gave him “the sense that this was a great place.” He also recognized other Harvard graduates: Karthik Muralidharan, a teaching assistant from his undergraduate days; and Paul Niehaus, a teaching assistant from his first year microeconomics sequence in grad school. All of this led Jeff to conclude that UC San Diego was the right choice. He claimed, “I don’t yet have a family of my own, but San Diego seems like a great place to set down some roots.”