Roland Gerhard Fryer, Jr. was born on June 4, 1977 in Daytona Beach, Florida. Fryer grew up in Lewisville, Texas,where he had moved with his father at the age of 4. Attending Lewisville High School, he starred in football and basketball, earning him an athletic scholarship from the University of Texas at Arlington. However, he never played a minute for the Texas–Arlington Mavericks, instead embracing academics, joining the Honors College, whose dean helped find him an academic scholarship.He graduated magna cum laude in 1998 after two and a half years while holding down a full-time job. Fryer completed his Ph.D. in economics from Penn State in 2002. He also conducted postdoctoral research at the University of Chicago with economist Gary Becker. Over the past three years, Fryer has collaborated with several other academics, including Steven Levitt, the University of Chicago economist and author of Freakonomics, Glenn Loury, a Brown University economist, and Edward Glaeser, an urban economist at Harvard.
Roland G. Fryer, Jr. is the Robert M. Beren Professor of Economics at Harvard University, a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, founder and faculty director of the Education Innovation Laboratory at Harvard, and a former junior fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows — one of academia’s most prestigious research posts.
At thirty, he became the youngest African-American to receive tenure from Harvard. He has been awarded a Sloan Research Fellowship, a Faculty Early Career Development Award from the National Science Foundation, and the inaugural Alphonse Fletcher Award.
Fryer served as chief equality officer at the New York City Department of Education from 2007 to 2008. He developed and implemented several innovative ideas on student motivation and teacher pay-for-performance concepts. He won a Titanium Lion at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival for the Million Motivation Campaign. Fryer has published papers on the racial achievement gap, causes and consequences of distinctively black names, affirmative action, the impact of the crack cocaine epidemic, historically black colleges and universities, and acting white.
Fryer is a 2009 recipient of a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. He appears on the “2009 Time 100,” Time Magazine’s annual list of the world’s most influential people. In 2011, he was awarded a MacArthur “Genius Grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. In 2012, he was awarded the Calvó-Armengol Prize, which is one of the most prestigious prizes recognizing young economists and social scientists.