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Kalena E. Cortes is an Associate Professor of Public Policy in the Bush School of Government and Public Service, a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), a Research Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), and a Mindset Scholar in the Mindset Scholars Network. She is currently serving a three-year term on the American Economic Association's Committee on the Status of Minority Groups in the Economics Profession (CSMGEP). Kalena completed her Ph.D. in Economics at the University of California at Berkeley and has also been a visiting scholar at both Stanford and Harvard University's Graduate School of Education, the National Bureau of Economic Research, and a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Princeton University.

Kalena's research interests are in the areas of the Economics of Education, Labor Economics, and Economic Demography. Her research focuses on issues of equity and access, in particular, identifying educational policies that help disadvantaged students at the PK-12 and postsecondary levels. She has worked on three key areas: improving academic performance of urban students, increasing access to postsecondary education, and raising educational attainment of immigrant students.

Most recently, Kalena has been working on innovative parenting programs delivered by text messages to guide parents toward more purposeful parenting (NBER WP #24827, NBER WP #25964). She has also developed a new texting curriculum for parents of middle schoolers, Texts4Teens (NSF funded study, SES-1918016). Her middle school texting curriculum is a parent engagement program that focuses on the social-emotional skill development of children, child progression through school, and close parent-child relationships.

Kalena's research has been funded by the Spencer Foundation, the American Educational Research Association, the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Education - Institute of Education Sciences, the University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research, the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, the Greater Texas Foundation, and the National Science Foundation.