Mitchell A. Orenstein is Professor and Chair of Russian and East European Studies at University of Pennsylvania. He is also associate of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University. His published work focuses on the political economy and international affairs of Central and Eastern Europe.
Orenstein’s first book, Out of the Red: Building Capitalism and Democracy in Postcommunist Europe (University of Michigan Press, 2001), won the 1997 Gabriel A. Almond Award of the American Political Science Association for the best dissertation in comparative politics. This book compares strategies for economic reform adopted in the Czech Republic and Poland after 1989 and their political, economic, and distributional consequences. It shows why democracies, under certain circumstances, can be more effective than dictatorships in economic policy making.
Privatizing Pensions: The Transnational Campaign for Social Security Reform (Princeton University Press, 2008) won the 2009 Charles H. Levine Prize of the International Political Science Association for a book that “makes a contribution of considerable theoretical or practical significance in the field of public policy and administration, takes an explicitly comparative perspective, and is written in an accessible style.” Privatizing Pensions demonstrates the impact of a coalition of transnational actors led by the World Bank on pension privatization worldwide. This study shows that transnational actors can exert a powerful influence on domestic policy reform in democratic states despite lacking direct veto power, by influencing the ideas and policy preferences of domestic veto players.
Professor Orenstein has also published two books on European social policy with the World Bank. Roma in an Expanding Europe: Breaking the Poverty Cycle, co-authored with Dena Ringold and Erika Wilkens, is a seminal study of Roma poverty, sociology, and public health. It won the Voter’s Choice Award for the most innovative analytical and advisory activity and the World Bank Europe/Central Asia Knowledge Fair in 2004. Pension Reform in Europe: Process and Progress, co-edited with Robert Holzmann and Michal Rutkowski, analyzes the political economy of pension reform throughout the European Union.
Orenstein’s teaching encompasses the fields of comparative politics, European studies, and international political economy. He teaches an elective course on Russia and Eastern Europe in International Affairs at the undergraduate level, which analyzes the geopolitical competition between the European Union and Russia over the countries in between. Professor Orenstein also teaches political economy courses on Communism and Globalization at Penn.
Prior to joining the faculty of University of Pennsylvania in 2015, Orenstein held appointments at Harvard, Yale, Brown, Northeastern, Syracuse, Johns Hopkins, and Moscow State Universities. Orenstein’s research has been recognized with fellowships from the MacArthur Foundation, American Council of Learned Societies, and Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He has consulted for the World Bank, USAID, the government of Slovakia, and other organizations. Professor Orenstein has lived in Britain, France, Czech Republic, Poland, and Russia. In his spare time, he coaches youth baseball and softball. He is married with three children.