For Jon Hartley, the power of economic forces—and the efforts of policymakers to control them—has been an ongoing source of fascination. As Jon describes it: “Economic policy impacts everyone from the taxes you pay to the interest rate on your mortgage. The idea that policymakers have the ability to change the well-being of individuals (for better or for worse) has captivated my interest since my first economics class in high school.”
This interest spurred Jon to spend his career pursuing a mastery of the subject, not just as a student, but through work as an analyst, consultant, researcher, and journalist. Jon, who is currently a second-year student in the MBA program at the Wharton School, was recently named one of Forbes’ “30 under 30” in law and policy. In bestowing that honor, Forbes specifically cited Jon’s role in co-founding Real Time Macroeconomics, an innovative economic research organization that webscrapes online economic data such as job openings, layoff announcements and self-reported wages, to create new economic indicators that forecast macro-trends in real time. His work also earned him recognition in 2013 as a World Economic Forum Global Shaper.
Jon put himself on the path to where he is today by choosing to attend the University of Chicago, which, he believed, was the best place to gain a firm understanding of both theoretical and empirical economics. While there, Jon worked as a research assistant at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago both during and after the Great Recession. The experience gave him a perspective he never could have achieved in the classroom, in terms of seeing the internal makings of monetary policy and getting to learn certain New Keynesian macroeconomic models that weren’t being taught at the University of Chicago.
After graduating in 2011 with a Bachelor’s of Arts with Honors in Mathematics and Economics, Jon applied his passion for data analytics in two different directions simultaneously. A lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan, Jon landed a part-time dream job with the team as a statistical analyst, assisting with the development of “Moneyball” analytics research aimed at improving player selection and in-game team performance. Jon worked for the Cowboys organization while working full-time at Goldman Sachs, as an analyst with the Quantitative Investment Strategies (QIS) Client Portfolio Management team, creating client driven research and presentations on behavioral finance and hedge fund strategies.
Jon’s decision to attend Wharton was a practical one: his work at Goldman had given him a terrific opportunity to apply and expand his knowledge of economics and data analytics, but also revealed how much there was still for him to learn. “For me, while I was an economics and math major as an undergraduate at Chicago, I’ve always felt that I’ve had gaps in my knowledge when it comes to academic finance,” he says. “Chicago isn’t as fortunate as Wharton to have an undergraduate finance major!”
While pursuing his graduate studies, Jon also has succeeded in leveraging his growing expertise in economic and financial policy within the media. He has been a contributing author for Forbes and the Huffington Post, and also has also made several appearances on Fox News, Fox Business, CNN, and NBC. He also was an economic policy adviser and surrogate for the Jeb Bush 2016 Presidential campaign making TV appearances on behalf of the campaign, and co-authored some op-eds with Columbia Business School Dean Glenn Hubbard who was one of the Bush campaign’s senior economic advisers as well as some op-eds with Jeb Bush Jr who chaired the campaign’s youth outreach.
Recently, Jon even had brief appearances in two Hollywood blockbusters, The Wolf of Wall Street and The Big Short. In an unexpected turn of events with The Wolf of Wall Street, Jon’s image was selected to appear front and center on one of the movie posters. “I showed up to a casting call and got lucky enough to be brought on set and got even luckier to make the poster,” Jon recalls. “It was definitely a fascinating experience seeing Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Jonah Hill along with other professionals do what they do best in making a film, especially one related to finance, a subject which is very close to my heart.”
With his time at Wharton nearing its end, Jon is currently deciding between job offers, all the while forging ahead with his economic research interests, including his work with Real-Time Macroeconomics, as well as his pursuits as a journalist and media commentator. There is one other thing he senses, though. “At some stage in my life, I really would like to work in some sort of economic policy capacity in D.C.,” Jon said. “The question is just what kind of role and context that would be.”