Jonathan W. Welburn

Jonathan W. Welburn
RAND Researcher; Professor of Policy Analysis, Pardee RAND Graduate School
Santa Monica Office


Ph.D. in decision science & operations research, University of Wisconsin – Madison; BSc in industrial & systems engineering and economics, University of Wisconsin – Madison


Jonathan Welburn is a senior researcher at RAND and a professor of policy analysis at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. His work leverages methods from operations research, computational economics, decision, and risk analysis to elucidate emerging systemic risks and the potential for market failures. Along these themes, Welburn’s research has covered topics ranging from systemic risks in the macroeconomy, the economic consequences of large cyber risks, and opportunities for enhanced cyber deterrence.

Currently, Welburn is leading several projects including methods for identifying and prioritizing systemically important entities across sectors of the U.S. economy, the estimation of global interfirm (supply chain) networks, and models of economic disparity.

Welburn’s work has been sponsored by several federal agencies including the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the Department of Defense, the Air Force, and the Army and has been published in RAND Reports, academic journals, and national news outlets including the Wall Street Journal, NY Times, and the LA Times. In addition to his research at RAND, Welburn is a member of the Aspen Cyber Group, the Society for Risk Analysis council, the Decision Analysis Society council, and a collaborator with the World Economic Forum on Technology, Innovation and Systemic Risk.

Recent Projects

  • Identification and prioritization of systemically important entities
  • Global interfirm networks
  • Disclosure of systemic cyber risk
  • Narrowing the racial wealth gap

Selected Publications

Jonathan W. Welburn, Pedro Nascimento de Lima, Krishna B. Kumar, Osonde A. Osoba, Jonathan Lamb, Overcoming Compound Racial Inequity: Policies and Costs for Closing the Black-White Wealth Gap, RAND Corporation (RR A1259-2), 2022

Jonathan William Welburn and Aaron Strong, "Systemic Cyber Risk and Aggregate Impacts,", 42, 2022

Jonathan W. Welburn, Justin Grana, Karen Schwindt, "Cyber Deterrence with Imperfect Attribution and Unverifiable Signaling," European Journal of Operational Research, 306(3), 2023

Welburn, Jonathan W., Aaron Strong, Florentine Eloundou Nekoul, Justin Grana, Krystyna Marcinek, Osonde A. Osoba, Nirabh Koirala, and Claude Messan Setodji, Systemic Risk in the Broad Economy: Interfirm Networks and Shocks in the U.S. Economy, RAND Corporation (RR-4185-RC), 2020




  • Banking and Financial Services

    Financial Panic in the Age of Digital Banking and Social Media

    Bank runs as a source of systemic risk are nothing new. To manage systemic risks in the age of social media, regulators may need to anticipate where the crisis will go and build in automatic brakes to slow them down. There likely won't be time to react at the speed of negotiation between regulators and bankers.

    Mar 14, 2023

    The RAND Blog

  • Supply Chain Management

    Stress Tests: The Right Tool for Strengthening Supply Chains

    Isolated interruptions to individual supply chains feel like a thing of the past. Today, the risks are more likely to cut across supply chains and leave companies vulnerable to shared or cascading threats. If we want to make supply chains more resilient, it's time to apply some stress tests.

    Aug 10, 2021

    Supply Chain Dive

  • Cybercrime

    How the United States Can Deter Ransomware Attacks

    To rein in ransomware attacks, the United States needs to upend the risk-reward ratio for hackers and for the countries that harbor or support them. Such a strategy would make networks harder to breach, hit back harder against hackers, and claw back gains from those who succeed.

    Aug 9, 2021

    Los Angeles Times

  • Cybersecurity

    Supply Chains Have a Cyber Problem

    We are entering a world in which cyber disruptions easily become supply chain disruptions, and where supply chains for hardware and software create new cyber risks. Managing these will demand digital-era solutions, including updating tools, regulations, and reporting requirements.

    Jun 22, 2021

    The RAND Blog

  • Energy Security

    Is DarkSide Really Sorry? Is It Even DarkSide?

    The U.S. military relies heavily on commercial energy assets, making the implications of events like the Colonial Pipeline outage more serious than just higher prices at the gas pump. The origins and severity of an attack dictate what the United States might do in response.

    May 19, 2021

    Defense One

  • Vaccination

    A Case for Vaccinating Teachers First

    Most agree that America's 18 million health care workers should top the list for COVID-19 vaccination. The 3.3 million teachers should come next. Vaccinating teachers could make it possible to open schools permanently and get parents back to work. That would help the economy recover.

    Dec 19, 2020

    The Wall Street Journal

  • Market Regulation

    Too Interconnected to Fail

    The 2007–08 financial crisis made regulators and lawmakers acutely aware that some financial institutions had become too big to fail. The next big economic crisis may arise outside the financial sector, in highly networked companies that are too interconnected to fail.

    Aug 22, 2020

    Wall Street Journal

  • Macroeconomics

    Balancing Public Health and Economic Effects of Physical Distancing: Q&A with Jonathan Welburn

    Jonathan Welburn, an operations researcher at RAND, has spent years studying how economic shocks ripple outward like a contagion through the economy. He recently helped develop an online tool that policymakers can use to manage the health and economic effects of COVID-19 interventions.

    Jul 13, 2020

  • Supply Chain Management

    Supply Chain Disruptions Due to COVID-19 and Social Distancing

    There are significant epidemiological and economic risks and uncertainties with physical distancing policies put into effect in the United States to reduce the growth of COVID-19. We have estimated the economy-wide impacts of a set of these policies to provide a sense of their likely economic toll.

    Apr 28, 2020

    The RAND Blog

  • Economic Policy

    The Danger of Converting a Health Crisis into a Financial Crisis

    The impulse to do something to help businesses right now is well-intended, but lending to companies that were highly leveraged pre-crisis is a risky bet. Assistance could be best directed toward sound enterprises that are likely to survive and contribute to boosting the economy in the coming years.

    Apr 13, 2020


  • Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

    The Social Distancing Economy: Q&A with RAND Experts

    Congress and the White House are weighing economic policies to help people acutely affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Here are insights from RAND experts on what might be effective in terms of fiscal policy, stimulus spending, and emergency relief to affected workers.

    Mar 18, 2020

  • Cybersecurity

    When Cyber Attacks Occur, Who Should Investigate?

    Data breaches and cyberattacks cross geopolitical boundaries, targeting individuals, corporations and governments. Creating a global body with a narrow focus on investigating and assigning responsibility for cyberattacks could be the first step to creating a digital world with accountability.

    Dec 6, 2018

    United Press International

  • Let's (Not) Play Games with Dodd-Frank

    Dodd-Frank, the 2010 financial reform law, is now itself the target of reform. Those involved with the overhaul could draw inspiration from an unlikely source: video games. A simulation game could help predict the effects of changes to regulations—and avoid high-stakes missteps.

    May 4, 2017

    The Hill