The Black Experience in America

Twenty-seven-year-old Harvard economist Roland Fryer grew up poor and black, in a family that was falling apart. His mother abandoned him. His father drank heavily and beat him. Fryer sold drugs and carried a gun. Then, at age 15, after he got pulled over by the police and then let go, he decided he wanted something different.

He finished an economics degree in two and a half years at the University of Texas at Arlington. As a graduate student at Penn State University, he began using economics to study race. Top economists took notice.

Now teaching at Harvard, Fryer is asking what many white economists are afraid to ask — why are so many African-Americans not succeeding? Fryer is ready to consider genetics, black culture, or anything else that might help him explain the achievement gap.

Hear a conversation with Roland Fryer about his search for answers on the black experience in America.


Roland Fryer, junior fellow at Harvard’s Society of Fellows and assistant professor of economics at Harvard University. He was subject of the recent New York Times Magazine article “Toward a Unified Theory of Black America.”;

James Heckman, 2000 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics and professor of economics at the University of Chicago.

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