He also maintains offices at the National Bureau of Economic Research and W. E. B. Du Bois Institute. In January 2008, at age 30, he became the youngest African-American to ever receive tenure at Harvard. He was named a 2011 MacArthur Fellow. Fryer is widely regarded to be one of black America and Harvard’s rising stars, having published numerous economics-related papers in prominent academic journals over the past few years. The New York Times ran an extensive profile of Fryer, entitled “Toward a Unified Theory of Black America,” in March 2005 that dealt extensively with Fryer’s rough upbringing: Fryer’s mother left when he was very young, and his father, who beat his son, was convicted of rape, effectively leaving Fryer to fend for himself. Fryer became a “full fledged gangster by his teens”.
Fryer grew up in Lewisville, Texas, where he had moved with his abusive father at the age of 4. Attending Lewisville High School, he starred in football and basketball, earning him an athletic scholarship from the University of Texas at Arlington. However, he never played a minute for the Texas–Arlington Mavericks, instead embracing academics, joining the Honors College, whose dean helped find him an academic scholarship. He graduated magna cum laude in 1998 after two and a half years while holding down a full-time job. Fryer completed his Ph.D. in economics from Penn State in 2002. He also conducted postdoctoral research at the University of Chicago with economist Gary Becker. Over the past three years, Fryer has collaborated with several other academics, including Steven Levitt, the University of Chicago economist and author of Freakonomics, Glenn Loury, a Brown University economist, and Edward Glaeser, an urban economist at Harvard.
Upon completing a three year fellowship with the Harvard Society of Fellows at the end of the 2005–2006 academic year, Fryer joined Harvard’s economics department as an assistant professor. In 2005, Fryer was also selected as one of the first Fletcher Foundation Fellows. Recently, Fryer has begun work on the Opportunity NYC project, which will study how students in low-performing schools respond to financial incentives. Fryer is currently working as the CEO of the Education Innovation Laboratory at Harvard University. The Economist lists Fryer as one of the top eight young economists in the world. In 2011, Fryer was a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, commonly referred to as a “Genius Grant”.