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Faculty & Research

John B. Willett

Professor of Education, Emeritus

John B. Willett

Degree:  Ph.D., Stanford University, (1985)
Email:  [javascript protected email address]
Vitae/CV:   John B. Willett.pdf


John Willett is an expert in statistical methods for analyzing the timing and occurrence of events; methods for modeling change, learning, and development; longitudinal research design; and methods for making causal inferences from quantitativer data. The influential book by Willett and his colleague Judy Singer, titled Applied Longitudinal Data Analysis: Modeling Change and Event Occurrence, is an integrated presentation of statistical methods for the analysis of longitudinal data. His most recent book, with his colleague Richard Murnane, titled Methods Matter: Improving Causal Inference in Educational and Social Science Research, seeks to bring innovative methods for making causal inferences into greater prominence in social research.

Willett was born and raised in northern England. He was educated at Harrogate Grammar School and Oxford University, where he studied physics (specializing in quantum mechanics) in the 1960s. At the end of the decade, he was a professional musician, playing bass guitar in a Rock n'Roll band. In the 1970s, he and his wife lived in Hong Kong, where he taught high-school physics and mathematics for almost a decade. In Hong Kong, he authored a high-school physics textbook for local schools, presented a weekly television science show, entitled Tomorrow's World, and celebrated the birth of his daughter. He traveled widely before settling in the United States in 1980, where he obtained his Ph.D. in applied statistics at Stanford University. During his career at Harvard, in addition to teaching courses in applied statistics, he has served as the Academic Dean and then Acting Dean of HGSE. He is now a U.S. citizen and a grandfather. He is retired from active full-time teaching and lives on the shores of the Monterey Bay in Santa Cruz, California, with his wife and a large woolly dog called Nanuk Sparkles McGee. He takes great pleasure in following the professional and personal trajectories of his former students, and celebrates the immense good that they are reaping collectively in the world.

Areas of Expertise

Bridging the Gap between Methodology and Substance: Advances in Study Design and Statistical Analysis for Educational Research


Lawrence R. Klein Award, Monthly Labor Review, for the most outstanding contribution by non-Bureau of Labor Statistics authors(with Dr Richard Murnane and Dr. Kathryn Boudett),(2003)

Professional and Scholarly Publishing Award, Honorable Mention in Mathematics and Statistics for Applied Longitudinal Data Analysis, Association of American Publishers,(2003)

Citation of Excellence, ANBAR Electronic Intelligence (jointly with Dr. Richard Murnane and Dr. Kathryn Boudett),(1997)

Spencer Mentor Grant, The Spencer Foundation (with Dr. Judith D. Singer),(1994)

Review of Research Award, American Educational Research Assocation (with Dr. Judith D. Singer),(1993)

American Statistical Association Research Fellowship, National Center for Educational Statistics,(1992)

Raymond B. Cattell Early Career Award for Programmatic Research, American Educational Research Association (with Dr. Judith D. Singer),(1992)

Palmer O. Johnson Memorial Award, American Educational Research Association (with Dr. Richard J. Murnane and Dr. Judith D. Singer),(1990)

Open Venning Exhibition in Physics, Worcester College, Oxford,(1967)


Applied Longitudinal Data Analysis: Modeling Change and Event Occurrence (with J. Singer),(2003)

"Do Different Dimensions of Male High-School Students' Skills Predict Labor Market Success a Decade Later? Evidence from the NLSY," in Economics of Education Review (with R. Murnane, J. Braatz and Y. Duhaldeborde),(2001)

"How Important Are the Cognitive Skills of Teenagers in Predicting Subsequent Earnings?" in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management (with R. Murnane, Y. Duhaldeborde and J. Tyler),(2000)

"Second Chance Strategies for Female School Dropouts," in the Monthly Labor Review (with K. Boudett and R. Murnane),(2000)

"What Are the High School Diploma and the GED Worth in the Labor Market? Evidence for Males from High School and Beyond?" in Review of Economics and Statistics (with R. Murnane and J. Tyler),(2000)

"Estimating the Labor Market Signaling Value of the GED," in the Quarterly Journal of Economics (with J. Tyler and R. Murnane),(2000)

"Do the Cognitive Skills of Dropouts Matter in the Labor Market?" in the Journal of Human Resources (with J. Tyler and R. Murnane),(2000)

"Do Male Dropouts Benefit From Obtaining a GED, Postsecondary Education, and Training?" in Evaluation Review (with R. Murnane and K. Boudett),(1999)

"The Career Paths of Teachers: Implications for Teacher Supply and Methodological Lessons for Research," in Educational Researcher (with R. Murnane and J. Singer),(1998)

"The Design and Analysis of Longitudinal Studies of Development and Psychopathology in Context: Statistical Models and Methodological Recommendations," in Development and Psychopathology (with J.D. Singer and N.C. Martin),(1998)

"Measuring Change: What Individual Growth Modeling Buys You," in Change and Development: Issues of Theory, Method and Application (ed. by E. Amsel and K. Renninger),(1997)

"Does a GED Lead to More Training, Post-Secondary Education, and Military Service for School Dropouts?" in Industrial and Labor Relations Review (with R. Murnane and K. Boudett),(1997)

"Methodological Issues in the Design of Longitudinal Research: Principles and Recommendations for a Quantitative Study of Teachers' Careers," in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis (with J. Singer),(1996)

"The Contribution of Training and Subject-Matter Knowledge to Teaching Effectiveness: A Multilevel Analysis of Longitudinal Evidence from Belize," in Comparative Education Review (with J. Mullens and R. Murnane),(1996)

"The Growing Importance of Cognitive Skills in Wage Determination," in Review of Economics and Statistics (with R.J. Murnane and F. Levy),(1995)

"Do High-School Dropouts Benefit From Obtaining a GED?" in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis (with R. Murnane and K. Boudett),(1995)

"It's Deja Vu All Over Again: Using Multiple-Spell Discrete-Time Survival Analysis," in Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics (with J.D. Singer),(1995)

"Using Covariance Structure Analysis to Detect Correlates and Predictors of Change," in Psychological Bulletin (with A.G. Sayer),(1994)

"Investigating Onset, Cessation, Relapse and Recovery: Why You Should, and How You Can, Use Discrete-Time Survival Analysis," in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology (with J. Singer),(1993)

"From Whether to When: New Methods for Studying Student Dropout and Teacher Attrition," in Review of Educational Research (with J.D. Singer),(1991)

"Modeling the Days of Our Lives: Using Survival Analysis When Designing and Analyzing Longitudinal Studies of Duration and the Timing of Events," in Psychological Bulletin (with J.D. Singer),(1991)

Who Will Teach? Policies That Matter (with R. Murnane, J. Singer, J. Kemple, and R. Olsen),(1991)

By Design: Planning Better Research in Higher Education (with R.J. Light and J.D. Singer),(1990)

"The Influence of Salaries and Opportunity Costs on Teachers' Career choices: Evidence from North Carolina," in Harvard Educational Review (with R. Murnane and J. Singer),(1989)

"Some Results on Reliability for the Longitudinal Measurement of Change: Implications for the Design of Studies of Individual Growth," in Educational and Psychological Measurement,(1989)

"Questions and Answers in the Measurement of Change," in Review of Research in Education (ed by E.Z. Rothkopf),(1988)

"Changes in Teacher Salaries During the 1970s: The Role of School District Demographics," in Economics of Education Review (with R. J. Murnane and J. D. Singer),(1987)

"Understanding Correlates of Change by Modeling Individual Differences in Growth," in Psychometrika (with D.R. Rogosa),(1985)

"It's About Time: Using Discrete-Time Survival Analysis To Study Duration and the Timing of Events," in the Journal of Educational Statistics (with J. Singer)


Member, National Academy of Education,(2004-present)

Member, American Educational Research Association,(1985-present)

Editorial Board, Evaluation and Program Planning

Editorial Board, Applied Psycholinguistics

Editorial Board, Structural Equation Modeling: A Multidisciplinary Journal

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