Rachel M. McClearyis a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where she focuses on how religious beliefs and practices influence productivity, economic growth, and the maintenance of political institutions such as democracy. She is also a lecturer in the Department of Economics at Harvard University.

Dr. McCleary’s work is interdisciplinary with theoretical grounding in political science, sociology, philosophy, and economics. Her research focuses on how religion interacts with economic performance and the political and social behavior of individuals and institutions across societies. At AEI, she continues her work on the political economy of religion, moral philosophy, and economic development in Central America.

Dr. McCleary has worked on Central America issues for decades. She was a Fulbright Research Fellow in Guatemala in 1994. In 1997, she coordinated a project for a private-sector initiative in a post-conflict setting for the Inter-American Development Bank, working between Washington, DC, and Guatemala. She consults on economic growth and human capital in Central America.

A prolific writer, Dr. McCleary has been widely published in academic journals. In addition, her books include the forthcoming “Religion and Political Economy” (with Robert J. Barro, Princeton University Press, 2018); “The Oxford Handbook of the Economics of Religion” (Oxford University Press, 2011);“Global Compassion: Private Voluntary Organizations and U.S. Foreign Policy Since 1939” (Oxford University Press, 2009), the winner of the 2010 Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Skystone Partners Prize for Research on Fundraising and Philanthropy; “Dictating Democracy: Guatemalan Elites and the End of Violent Revolution” (University Press of Florida, 1999 in English) and (Artemis-Edinter, 1999 in Spanish); a chapter titled “Postconflict Political Economy of Central America” in “Comparative Peace Processes in Latin America” (Woodrow Wilson Press and Stanford University Press, 1999); and“Seeking Justice: Ethics and International Affairs” (Westview Press, 1992).

Dr. McCleary holds a doctorate in moral philosophy from the University of Chicago; a master’s in theological studies from Candler School of Theology, Emory University; and a bachelor’s of arts in linguistics and Spanish from Indiana University.


  • Harvard University: Lecturer, Department of Economics, 2017–present; Senior Research Fellow, Taubman Center, Harvard Kennedy School, 2007–17; Lecturer, Department of Government, 2002-06
  • Stanford University: Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, 1999–present
  • American Enterprise Institute: Visiting Scholar, summer 2010, 2018–present
  • Universidad Francisco Marroquín: Visiting Professor, Guatemala, 1998
  • Johns Hopkins University: Lecturer, School of Advanced International Studies, 1998
  • Instituto Interaméricano de Derechos Humanos, San José, Costa Rica: Member, Election Observation Mission, IIDH/CAPEL Nicaraguan National Elections, October 1996
  • Georgetown University: Adjunct Professor, Department of Government, 1995–96; Visiting Professor, School of Foreign Service, 1986–89
  • Election Observation Mission IIDH/CAPEL, Guatemalan National Elections: Member, November 1995 and January 1996
  • Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars: “Comparative Peace Processes in Latin America” study group member (which led to the publication of a volume of essays by the same name), 1995–97
  • Universidad Rafael Landivar, Guatemala: Fulbright Research Scholar, 1994
  • US Institute of Peace: Program Officer, 1992–94
  • Princeton University: Lecturer, Department of Politics, 1989–92


Ph.D., political theory and moral philosophy, University of Chicago
M.T.S., Emory University
B.A., linguistics and Spanish, Indiana University