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Harvard’s Chetty Finds Economic Carnage in Wealthiest ZIP Codes

The celebrated economist has built a data tool with a God’s-eye view of the pandemic’s damage—and soaring inequality.



Photographer: Philip Keith for Bloomberg Businessweek

Raj Chetty hasn’t eaten at a restaurant in months. In fact, he’s barely left his home near Harvard, where he’s an economics professor. The MacArthur genius grant recipient has been getting his haircuts from a stem cell biologist—his wife.

If you want to understand what’s really wrong with the economy, this is a telling symptom: Chetty used to travel widely sharing insights from his work, which mines data to paint a vividly detailed picture of inequality in the U.S. Now he, like millions of other affluent Americans, is at home. That might seem harmless—Chetty and his wife enjoy cooking together and spending time with their 5-year-old daughter—until you confront the effects on the already-precarious livelihoods of the people who fed, clothed, and pampered this professional class.