Jean Ensminger is the Edie and Lew Wasserman Professor of Social Science at the California Institute of Technology. Her works sits at the interface of economics, political science, development, and anthropology. Ensminger is a past President of the Society for Economic Anthropology and served as Division Chair for the Humanities and Social Sciences at Caltech from 2002-2006. In 2006-2007 she was a visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation, and in 2011 she received a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship.
Ensminger is known for her work in the political economy of Africa. She has conducted several decades of research in one African society (Making a Market: The Institutional Transformation of an African Society, published by Cambridge University Press). Over the past decade, Ensminger was co–principal investigator with Joseph Henrich of the Roots of Human Sociality Project, which used economic experiments in small-scale societies around the world to understand the coevolution of market institutions and pro-social norms of fairness, trust, cooperation, and norm enforcement. That work has appeared in numerous journals, including Science (2006 and 2010) The Behavioral and Brain Sciences (2005), and in two volumes, the most recent of which was published in 2014 ( Experimenting with Social Norms: Fairness and Punishment in Cross-Cultural Perspective, Russell Sage Foundation).
Ensminger's current research focuses on corruption in development and decentralized government.