Rebecca Thornton is an Associate Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Prior to that, Dr. Thornton was at the University of Michigan in the Department of Economics and the Population Studies Center. Dr. Thornton’s research focuses on health, education, and the status of women in developing countries. Across these topics, her work addresses core issues within Economics, including the role of subjective beliefs in decision-making and how social networks influence behavior and beliefs. Dr. Thornton has been the principal or co-investigator on studies in India, Jordan, Malawi, Nicaragua, Nepal, and Uganda. These studies have involved collecting longitudinal data and conducting field experiments to understand important development issues such as HIV prevention, family planning uptake, enrollment in health insurance, effects of merit-based scholarships, and effective ways to improve early grade literacy.
Her work has received national and international recognition with papers published in top general interest and field journals. She has received funding from agencies such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, ESRC-DFID, the International Growth Centre, and the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie). Dr. Thornton is an affiliate with the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) and BREAD (Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development) and received her Ph.D. in Political Economy and Government, a joint degree in Economics and Public Policy, from the J.F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.