He was born in Utah in 1959 and raised in Boise, Idaho. He graduated from Brigham Young University in 1983 with a B.S. in Economics, after serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Argentina (1978–1980). He graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1988 with a PhD in Economics.
He worked for the World Bank from 1988 to 2000 and from 2004 to 2007. In 1991 he said that he wrote the controversial Summers memo that supposedly advocated the exportation of polluting industries to poor countries, for which Summers was receiving widespread criticism. He was a contributor to the first Copenhagen Consensus. From 2000 to 2004 he was a lecturer in public policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He is currently a professor of the practice of economic development at the Kennedy School of Government.
In 2006 he published his first monograph Let Their People Come: Breaking the Gridlock on Global Labor Mobility (Center for Global Development, pub). The book references research that Pritchett did with Michael Clemens and others at the CGD on the place premium, income per natural, and other related concepts. He argues that the most effective way the developed world can help impoverished countries is to allow vastly increased numbers of low skilled laborers as guest workers. He describes what he sees as an immoral cycle of using ever more sophisticated technology to reduce labor while billions of willing workers live in extreme poverty.
In 2013, Pritchett wrote an editorial for Bloomberg Press criticizing Pope Francis regarding his comments on social inequality.
- Let Their People Come: Breaking the Gridlock on Global Labor Mobility (Center for Global Development, pub, 2006), available for free download 
- Why Is Pope Francis Promoting Sin? http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-12-15/why-is-pope-francis-promoting-sin-.html
- Lant Pritchett's web page at the Kennedy School of Government
- DeParle, Jason (June 10, 2007), "Should We Globalize Labor Too?", The New York Times.
- Flanders, Stephanie (June 24, 2001), "Ideas & Trends; In the Shadow of AIDS, a World of Other Problems", The New York Times.
- "How to save the world", Economist (8399), October 30, 2004: 80–80.
- Ending Global Apartheid 2008 interview in Reason
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