I first met Roland Fryer a decade ago. It didn’t take me long to figure out he was a genius. It took the folks at the MacArthur Foundation a little longer to come to that realization, but they finally got on board last week when they gave Roland one of their high-profile MacArthur “Genius” Awards.
Most of Roland’s research has been devoted to understanding the factors influencing Black economic progress. He’s worked on segregation, the sources of the Black-White test score gap, the reasons why Black longevity is less than that of Whites, and the Ku Klux Klan, among many other topics. Recently, he has been the source of some of the most innovative ideas and experimentation in public education, partnering with some of the most influential people in education: Arne Duncan, Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee, Geoffrey Canada, etc. I’m not sure how, but Roland has managed to be one of the few economists who is both a top academic and an influential policy player.
Given all that Roland has accomplished, it is hard to believe he is still in his early thirties… a veritable baby when it comes to academic economics. And he’s done all this despite the fact that he gave everyone else a twenty-year head start (see Freakonomics to learn more about the unlikely path that led Roland to where he is today).
On top of it all, Roland is one of the most likable, honest, and engaging people you could ever find. More than just a friend, he’s a part of our family. Nothing could make me prouder or happier than watching Roland’s success. I can’t wait to see what comes next.