Aaron is a PhD candidate in the Stanford University Department of Sociology, former PhD fellow and current predoctoral fellow at Stanford’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (PACS). His dissertation explores the evolving ideals of rational government administration from the late-1800s to mid-1900s. In brief, calls for moral (non-corrupt) administrators, developed into calls for measurable effectiveness and efficiency, which eventually developed into a regime of comparisons, tradeoffs, and optimizations codified in methods like PPBS and CBA. To explain this change, he focuses on social action cutting across social realms — in particular reform efforts, the burgeoning social sciences, and rapidly growing city and federal administrations — and time.
Many of these interests are paralleled in his research on nonprofit organizations, conducted along with Woody Powell and Christof Brandtner through the Stanford Project on the Evolution of Nonprofits (SPEN). Conducting a longitudinal study of the Bay Area nonprofit sector, their project seeks to understand the changing meanings and practices of nonprofit rationalization, and the relationships between nonprofits and community vitality. Along with a team of international collaborators, they are developing comparative project, the Civic Life of Cities, focusing on the nonprofit sectors in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Puget Sound Region, Shenzhen, Sydney, and Vienna.
Lastly, along with Woody Powell, he examines the social and historical processes by which ultra-rich philanthropists — whose wealth and influence was once considered a serious threat to democracy — came to be regarded as legitimate underwriters of public provision in the US.
Prior to Stanford, Aaron received an undergraduate degree from Princeton University, and worked in public policy at the Urban Institute and Mathematica Policy Research. His free time revolves around coffee, beer, and bicycles — though not necessarily in that order.