2022 Best 40-Under-40 MBA Professors: Vincent Pons, Harvard Business School

Vincent Pons

Harvard Business School

“Professor Pons has consistently been one of the highest rated professors at HBS. His second-year course on Institutions, Macroeconomics, and the Global Economy (IMaGE) teaches students how to exploit the opportunities created by the emergence of a global economy and how to manage the risks that globalization entails. The course includes cases on recent financial, currency, and debt crises as well as major swings in politics and policies, including many of his own case studies on social unrest in Chile, international solutions to climate change, and the rise of populism in countries from Bolivia to the U.S.”

Vincent Pons, 38, is the Michael B. Kim Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School.

Pons grew up in France and came to Boston in 2008 to complete his PhD. After witnessing the last months of the Obama 2008 campaign, he decided to study campaigns and elections. He is a a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), and a faculty affiliate at the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL).

His research focuses on questions in political economy and development. His work has appeared in top journals such as Econometrica, the American Economic Review, the Quarterly Journal of Economics, and the American Political Science Review. Media appearances and mentions include The New York Times, The Economist, PRI’s The World, the Huffington Post, le Monde, and BFM Business.


At current institution since what year? Since 2015

Education: PhD, Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

List of MBA courses you currently teach: First-year MBA course Business, Government, and the International Economy; and second-year MBA course Institutions, Macroeconomics, and the Global Economy.


What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? Across the world, dissatisfaction with elected governments is at all-time highs. My research aims to understand why representative democracies can fail to deliver leaders, policies and outcomes aligned with people’s preferences.

For instance, in a recent research project joint with two coauthors, I study electoral turnovers: elections in which the incumbent is defeated and replaced by a challenger. Turnovers are an essential component of democracy since they are often the only way for citizens to replace their country’s leadership peacefully. To understand how turnovers affect national outcomes, we study the universe of presidential and parliamentary elections held since 1945. We estimate the effects of turnovers on economic performance, trade, human development, conflict, and democracy, and show that turnovers tend to improve country performance. Electing new leaders leads to more policy change, it improves governance, and it reduces perceived corruption, consistent with the expectation that recently elected leaders exert more effort due to stronger reputation concerns.

One word that describes my first time teaching: I remember the weekend before my first time teaching very well. On Sunday afternoon, I called one of my best friends, who had recently graduated from HBS, and confessed that I was not sure I would be able to do it. But I survived the first week, and went to celebrate with two fellow colleagues who had started in the same year and were teaching the same course. Being able to go through this with them made a big difference! 


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? They do not care about the number of papers you have published, or how significant your contribution to the literature is. They care about learning something new, exciting, and occasionally useful. It is very refreshing.

What is most challenging? MBA students think quickly on their feet. It makes for fascinating discussions. Sometimes, you need to make sure they keep up with you – but more often than not, you need to keep up with them!


What are your hobbies? I play soccer, hike, and read (academic papers more than books – but working on this).

How will you spend your summer? Between Europe and the U.S., hopefully with some beach and mountain time.

Favorite book(s): Albert Cohen, Her Lover; Julien Gracq, The Opposing Shore; Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? Michelangelo Antonioni, La notte


I’m grateful for … doing such a wonderful job, which combines academic freedom and teaching to exceptional students, who bring their experience and curiosity to each and every class. 


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