Flavio Cunha is a Network Leader of both the Early Childhood Interventions and Family Inequality Networks, as well as a member of the Markets Network. He is an Associate Professor of Economics at Rice University and is a research associate at Penn’s Population Studies Center. Professor Cunha’s research focuses on the causes and consequences of inequality and poverty. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 2007. He is also a co-organizer of HCEO's Workshop on Human Capital Formation and Family Economics.


Please describe your area of study and how it relates to current policy discussions surrounding inequality.

My area of research is human capital formation. I am interested in trying to understand how investments in children and adolescents and adults explain poverty and also help with long-run economic growth. That’s my area of research.


What areas in the study of inequality are most in need of new research?

I think all areas. I think that we don’t understand a lot about how to invest in children, how to promote policies that can benefit more children.  We don’t understand how we can make what is a failing school into a better school, I think that that’s an important thing. We don’t understand how the community, peers, and the social network affect the opportunities that people have and the human capital formation that they experience. Interestingly, it’s a field that has a lot of questions that are unanswered. There is a lot of opportunity for new research.


What advice do you have for emerging scholars in your field?

Be ambitious. Go for the big questions, follow your heart. Don’t try to guess what people will think is a good paper or people will think is a bad paper. Just do what you love and then try to affect the really important questions.