Julia Pollak

Photo of Julia Pollak
Assistant Policy Researcher, RAND Corporation; Ph.D. Candidate, Pardee RAND Graduate School
Santa Monica Office


M.Phil. in policy analysis, Pardee RAND Graduate School; B.A. in economics, Harvard University


Julia Pollak is a Ph.D. candidate at the Pardee RAND Graduate School and an assistant policy researcher at the RAND Corporation. She specializes in microeconomics and game theory—particularly market design, matching theory, and auctions—in the context of labor economics and political economy. Her dissertation explores racial and ethnic gaps in voter turnout. Her recent work has addressed topics related to military personnel policy, defense acquisition, and military intelligence. 

Pollak graduated cum laude from Harvard College with a B.A. in economics. She has worked as a research assistant for defense studies at the Heritage Foundation, where she focused on defense strategy and budgets; as a research intern for economic policy at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, Israel; and as a research intern in the Parliament of South Africa. She teaches Principles of Microeconomics at Pepperdine University and is a drilling reservist in the U.S. Navy. 

Concurrent Non-RAND Positions

Economics Instructor, Pepperdine University; Petty Officer First Class, U.S. Navy Reserve; Labor Economist, ZipRecruiter

Previous Positions

Research Assistant for Defense Studies, The Heritage Foundation

Selected Publications

Thomas Light, Robert S. Leonard, Julia Pollak, Meagan L. Smith, and Akilah Wallace, "Quantifying Cost and Schedule Uncertainty for Major Defense Acquisition Programs (MDAPs)", (RR-1723-AF), 2017

Craig Bond, Jennifer Lewis, Henry A. Leonard, Julia Pollak, Christopher Guo, and Bernard Rostker, "Tour Lengths, Permanent Changes of Station, and Alternatives for Savings and Improved Stability", (RR-1034-OSD), 2016

Sarah O. Meadows, Beth Ann Griffin, Benjamin R. Karney, and Julia Pollak, "Employment Gaps Between Military Spouses and Matched Civilians," Armed Forces & Society, 42(3), 2016

Brien Alkire et al., Leveraging the Past to Prepare for the Future of Air Force Intelligence Analysis, (RR-1330-AF), 2016

Julia I. Pollak (nee Bertelsmann) "Independent Fiscal Institutions in the Face of Rising Public Debt," in Ed. George Kopits, Restoring Public Debt Sustainability, Oxford University Press, 2013

Honors & Awards

  • Military Excellence Award, Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, U.S. Navy
  • NOSC North Island Junior Sailor of the Quarter, U.S. Navy
  • Navy Region Southwest Bluejacket of the Year, U.S. Navy


English; German; Afrikaans


  • Protestors block trucks at the gate of a private-contractor company hired to shut off the water to residential customers with unpaid bills in Detroit, Michigan

    What Durban Can Teach Detroit: Getting Customers to Pay Their Water Bills

    South Africa is proving that governments in poor cities can provide water and collect payment without turning off the water spigot. Detroit and Baltimore might consider exploring models like this that have been successfully tested in even more challenging settings.

    Jul 29, 2015 The RAND Blog

  • The Mariannhill landfill site in Durban, South Africa

    In South Africa, Bold Investments Turn Trash into Treasure

    South Africa’s landfills are reportedly rapidly reaching capacity—as are those in many developing countries. Surveys show that only about 3 percent of urban South Africans sort and recycle their household waste frequently. Until recycling becomes more widespread, the nation will have to keep building landfills.

    Dec 3, 2014 The RAND Blog

  • Protestors demonstrate against a lack of housing outside provincial government buildings in central Cape Town, October 30, 2013

    Community-Driven Development: How the Poor Can Take Charge to Improve Their Housing

    Public housing projects have been controversial for decades in countries around the world. But an informal settlement in Cape Town, South Africa, could serve as a guide for other countries experimenting with community-driven development, an alternative approach to public housing.

    Sep 19, 2014 The RAND Blog

  • South African men create a sandbag building for EcoSteps

    Could Alternatives Ease the Misery of South Africa's Housing Crisis?

    The government's plan to replace cardboard shacks with cement houses may not be the only route to easing South Africa's housing woes. Increasingly, academic researchers, non-governmental organizations, and private companies are demonstrating pragmatic, low-cost, alternatives.

    Jul 10, 2014 The RAND Blog

  • Photo of South African shanty town

    In South Africa, Hard Choices on Housing

    While much has changed in South Africa since the end of apartheid 20 years ago, many challenges remain, including the developing nation's dire need for housing.

    May 7, 2014 The RAND Blog