Leon is pursuing the MACRM program to build on his economics skills and prepare for a PhD program.
Headshot of Raul Leon
Raul Leon

Raul Leon, MACRM Class of 2024, speaks about theoretical economics in the way some people describe eating their favorite food. “It’s fun, I’m not going to lie,” he laughed. “And while I enjoy  econometric theory, I also want to research applied topics like discrimination, neighborhood effects, and social mobility.”

Leon’s love for economics, he said, was inspired after he read about the concept of value pluralism in Amartya Sen’s The Idea of Justice. “Sen encouraged his readers to focus on diagnosing and treating the injustices of society and reaching agreements of what is ‘just’ through public discourse and democracy. In my mind, there was no better way for me  to contribute to this public discourse than through the use of econometrics in public policy.” 

Prior to Harris, Leon earned his bachelor’s of economics with an emphasis on quantitative methods at the University of Queensland in Australia. There, he also earned first-class honors in econometrics, with an honor’s thesis analyzing the peer effects that superstar’ students had on their classmates. While completing his degree work, Leon also served as a research assistant for numerous projects, covering topics ranging from the innovativeness of businesses in Australia to the relation of a country's economic complexity to corruption.

Leon knew he wanted to pursue a PhD in economics but recognized he needed to earn a master’s degree first. His choice to pursue the UChicago Harris Master of Arts in Public Policy with Certificate in Research Methods (MACRM) program was informed by a few key factors: 

“First, the MACRM provides numerous opportunities to gain perspective on the economics work I've done. Although I have already taken PhD courses, the required PhD-level courses in the MACRM will deepen my quantitative background. Similarly, the apprenticeship will allow me to do policy analysis and impactful policy research. Plus, Harris offered research design for policy and applied work. This is especially appealing, as I am interested in using statistical methods to measure economic reality that includes factors affecting people’s daily lives such as poverty traps, asymmetric health access, and persistent diseases in marginalized populations.

“Second, while conducting my honor’s thesis, I performed a lot of literature reviews in order to complete my own work better—and most of the literature was written by Steven Durlauf.  After doing additional research and seeing the caliber of groundbreaking work Harris faculty have done, UChicago was an institution that was hard to pass up.”

In fact, Leon’s current work at the University of Chicago’s Center for the Economics of Human Development has provided him with just such groundbreaking opportunities. “I am currently studying the impact of different neighborhoods on the intergenerational mobility of refugees in Denmark.” 

For prospective MACRM applicants, Leon offered this advice: “While the main ingredient of the MACRM program is the classwork, you should not stop there. I recommend really getting to know the professors, especially if you want to do research further down the road. Be sure to pursue social interactions!”