Who inspired you to do the work you are doing?
My upbringing, especially the decision my parents made to immigrate to the United States when I was 3-years old, constantly reminds me of how many of the opportunities and outcomes in my life have depended on circumstances outside of my control. I think this fact led me to notice the injustices and inequities around me, in turn leading me to work in some way to help make sure that people are guaranteed basic standards of living and equal opportunity.
What is the biggest challenge facing the United States and how would you fix it?
Excessive inequality, whether in income, wealth, opportunity, or power—all related—is an enormous challenge facing our country. An effective agenda to moderate these disparities would be lengthy, but two important areas for solutions include: 1) raising incomes, especially for those with the lowest-incomes, through such efforts as investing in education and training, strengthening labor standards and boosting workers’ bargaining power, and protecting and improving the safety net; and 2) equalizing the disparity in political influence between the wealthiest and the most disadvantaged and vulnerable, whose interests too often may not coincide.
Where can we find more of your work?
What advice do you have for young people interested in your field?
There are many ways to start working to advance economic security and opportunity. Whether it is working on policy prescriptions through a think tank or in government, helping children, families, and communities directly through service, or finding creative ways to engage the public through art and entertainment, or improving improve social services and programs through better research and technology, there is always need for more people with passion and ideas in this fight. But passion isn’t enough. It’s also important to reflect on your skills and weakness; sometimes you’ll want to avoid your weakness, but other times you’ll want to improve upon them. From there, begin to reach out to others in the field—ask questions, and find out how they began their careers. Do not be afraid to ask for advice. At the same time, don’t think you need to plan your career 30 years in advance. It’s very possible that by that time you’ll be in a role that doesn’t really exist today. And you should be willing to take advantage of unexpected opportunities.
How do you find balance with a career as demanding as yours?
Not very well; I’m still working on this!
What do you do when you are not saving the world?
Spending time with my wife and son, or emailing and chatting with my sister, Amrita, and parents, Anjan and Indrani.
What are your comfort foods?
Mac and cheese, peanut butter and jelly or grilled cheese sandwiches, and French fries (I sound like a kid!)
What's your guilty pleasure?
Spending a whole day marathon-watching television shows. I rarely get to do this, but when I do, I always feel like I should be more active productive with my time.