Wesleyan University awarded Indian American economist Raj Chetty an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters during its 192nd Commencement ceremony on Sunday. Chetty, lauded for his groundbreaking research on social mobility and opportunity disparity, praised Wesleyan for its leadership in expanding access to higher education.

In his speech to the Class of 2024, Chetty highlighted the transformative power of education. “When a child moves to a neighborhood with better schools or attends a high-quality college, we see their lives transformed relative to others who didn’t get the same chances,” he said. “Opportunity matters, and education is a key that opens the doors of opportunity.”

Chetty shared personal anecdotes illustrating the profound impact of education on his own family. He recounted how his mother, benefiting from the establishment of a women’s college in her South Indian hometown, went on to become the first female doctor in her community. Similarly, his father, aided by scholarships, pursued advanced studies in the United States, underscoring the ripple effect of educational opportunities across generations.

His research at Harvard’s Opportunity Insights, which analyzes extensive data on American life, reinforces the importance of environment and access in shaping individuals’ futures. Chetty lamented the uneven distribution of these opportunities, noting, “Numerous talented kids in America don’t get the opportunity to attend high-quality schools and colleges.”

Chetty urged graduates to use their education to foster greater equality and expand opportunities for all. “Efforts to expand access to opportunity can make the American Dream of upward mobility more of a reality for everyone,” he emphasized.

As the William A. Ackman Professor of Public Economics at Harvard and director of Opportunity Insights, Chetty’s work spans tax policy, unemployment insurance, education, and affordable housing. His accolades include a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship and the John Bates Clark medal, awarded to the top economist under 40.

Chetty concluded with a challenge to the graduates: “Use your education to inspire and spread opportunity to those around you, making the world a better, fairer place.”