David Wilkinson LAW ’06, a former White House official and adjunct professor at the Yale School of Medicine, will serve as the inaugural executive director of the Tobin Center for Economic Policy at Yale, the Department of Economics announced in an Aug. 21 press release.

In his role as director of the White House Office of Social Innovation — which he has held since 2015 — Wilkinson emphasized data-driven approaches to social issues, including education, job growth and economic development. Closer to the Elm City, he served as the commissioner of the Office of Early Childhood under former Gov. Dannel Malloy and current Gov. Ned Lamont. Wilkinson will assume his position Sept. 4.

“With extensive experience in applying and developing evidence-based domestic policies, Dave understands the importance of rigorous analysis and data-driven research to tackling economic and political challenges and informing public discourse,” Yale President Peter Salovey said in the press release. “I know he will lead the center with wisdom and passion, and I look forward to working with him to help faculty, students, and staff contribute knowledge and ideas that will bridge divides and improve lives.”

The appointment is the latest in a series of developments for the new economic research center. Most recently, the first class of predoctoral graduate students started work on research projects with Tobin-affiliated faculty this summer. Their research was wide-ranging, covering drug prices, racial disparities in the health care and the effects of eviction on poverty, according to the press release.

Professor of Economics Steven Berry, who was chosen as the inaugural faculty director of the center last October, explained that Wilkinson will largely focus on the external connections between Yale’s research and the world of government policy as well as the debate over those policies. He added that the center is interested in bringing in leading experts to discuss and implement policy-based research in the wider world.

Berry explained that he will focus more on internal relations, helping fund projects and coordinate professor-policy maker interactions. He noted that he and Wilkinson will “run the center together, side-by-side.”

“I am absolutely thrilled that Dave is coming,” Berry told the News. “I think he is the ideal person for this job.”

The Tobin Center, a $60 million enterprise announced in June 2018, was established as administrators and faculty across the University looked to develop data-driven public policy research at Yale.

In the press release, Wilkinson emphasized his commitment to the new field of empirically driven policy making, but noted the large room for growth in the field.

“There remains tremendous untapped opportunity,” he said. “Robust engagement by social scientists will be critical to realizing the full potential of evidence-based, data-driven policymaking to better serve people and the planet. I am eager to advance this work at the Tobin Center, to build partnerships in the policy space, and to help shorten the time between research and impact.”

Wilkinson did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The construction of a dedicated building for the research hub is set to be completed in 2022.

Skakel McCooey | skakel.mccooey@yale.edu