Sari Pekkala Kerr, Ph.D., is an economist and a senior research scientist who leads the Women in the Workplace Research Initiative at the Wellesley Centers for Women. Her studies and teaching focus on the economics of labor markets, education, and families.
One strand of Pekkala Kerr’s research evaluates how different schooling systems affect learning outcomes and economic mobility, especially for children from disadvantaged family backgrounds. A second strand examines the role of high-skilled immigration within U.S. firms, and the overall economic impacts of immigration on the economy. Pekkala Kerr's 2016 NBER Working Paper, co-authored with William Kerr, Ph.D. found that immigrants play a disproportionate role in American entrepreneurship. In May 2017, she presented an overview of research on patterns of skilled migration at the Global Empowerment Meeting (GEM), hosted by the Center for International Development at Harvard University. Pekkala Kerr's recent work also quantifies the effect of information on labor market prospects on students’ choices among study programs, and the impact of public policies on the coverage and usage of parental leaves across the family income distribution.
Before joining WCW in 2010, Pekkala Kerr previously worked at the Government Institute for Economic Research in Helsinki. She also served as an adjunct professor or visiting scholar to the economics departments of MIT, Boston University, and the University of Kent at Canterbury. Additionally, Pekkala Kerr has extensive private sector experience as an economic consultant for Charles River Associates and Keystone Strategy.
Kerr received a University Diploma in Economics from the University of Kent at Canterbury in England, and her M.A. in Economics, Business Studies, Education and Linguistics and her Ph.D. from the University of Jyväskylä in Finland.
Pekkala Kerr is actively involved with the academic community in Europe and in the U.S. She is an active member of the Helsinki Center of Economic Research and the Helsinki Economics of Education Research Group (HEERG), a network of economists working on questions related to educational policies and outcomes, particularly in Finland. She has also served as the Scientific Secretary of the European Regional Science Association and as an international expert in the European Union Mutual Learning Panel on the Economics of Immigration. She co-chaired the Labor Economics Finnish Postdoctoral Program for several years. She has also been a policy advisor regarding gender equality in labor markets and immigration.