• Nobel-winning economist Michael Kremer to join department faculty as University Professor

     

    Photo by Jon Chase/Harvard University

    Photo by Jon Chase/Harvard University

    Nobel Prize-winning economist Michael Kremer has been appointed University Professor at the University of Chicago and will join our department faculty.

    A pioneer in development economics who has shaped the discipline through the use of field experiments to inform economic models, policy and program development, Kremer shared the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel in 2019. He has been most recently at Harvard University, where he serves as the Gates Professor of Developing Societies in the Department of Economics.

    Kremer’s appointment at UChicago will be effective on Sept. 1. He also will hold a secondary appointment at the Harris School of Public Policy.

    “Michael is a scholar of extraordinary vision and accomplishment. His research has had an enormous influence on his field, and has been impactful in informing public policy in developing countries,” said Ka Yee C. Lee, provost and the David Lee Shillinglaw Distinguished Service Professor of Chemistry. “We are delighted to welcome Michael to the University of Chicago. The range of his research will undoubtedly lead to collaborations across divisions and schools.”

    University Professors are among those recruited at a senior level from outside the University, and are selected for internationally recognized eminence in their fields as well as for their potential for high impact across the University. Kremer will become the 23rd person to hold a University Professorship, and the 10th active faculty member holding that title.

    “The University of Chicago’s commitment to expanding research on development economics is an exceptional opportunity,” Kremer said. “The work ahead will develop new knowledge on ways to address global poverty and ultimately to do good for the world.

    Kremer was among the first economists to evaluate interventions in developing countries through randomized control trials. In 1998, he evaluated a project on deworming in Kenya. By comparing schools that had already been phased into treatment for intestinal worms with those that had not yet been phased into the program, he and his collaborators found that the program reduced student absenteeism by a quarter—and even reduced transmission of the disease to neighboring schools. Subsequent work also found that deworming had long-run impacts, leading to higher living standards 20 years later.

    “Michael’s research and its resulting policy impacts in economic development, health, education and technological innovation has been transformative at a global scale,” said Amanda Woodward, dean of the Division of the Social Sciences and the William S. Gray Distinguished Service Professor of Psychology. “We look forward to the next revolutionary phases of Michael’s work. He will be a foundational force for the future of Griffin Economics as well as for the broad community of economists at the University of Chicago.”

    Through the nonprofit organization Evidence Action and its private sector and government partners, Kremer’s work has now helped provide free deworming treatments to 280 million children. The World Health Organization recommends large-scale deworming as the most cost-effective way to improve children’s health and nutrition.

    “All of Michael’s work is grounded in theory and built around a coherent set of ideas interrogating what we can learn from economics,” said Rob Shimer, chair of the Kenneth C. Griffin Department of Economics and the Alvin H. Baum Professor in Economics. “His extraordinary contributions to the field of economics and to improving human welfare are testament to the power of his methodological innovations.”

    In addition to that research, Kremer helped develop the advance market commitment, proposing the idea of a contract that would guarantee that if firms developed vaccines for diseases affecting the developing world meeting certain technological specifications, donors would help cover the cost of purchasing the product. Such commitments have stimulated private investment in vaccine research and the distribution of vaccines for diseases in the developing world. A $1.5 billion commitment by a consortium of donors led to the development and distribution of vaccines covering the strains of pneumococcal diseases common in the developing world, saving an estimated 700,000 lives.

    “Michael’s landmark work has not only advanced the field but has had enormous real-world impact,” said Katherine Baicker, dean and the Emmett Dedmon Professor at the Harris School of Public Policy. “His work has resulted in billions of dollars being devoted towards malaria and pneumococcal vaccines focused on the strains prevalent in developing countries. Few economists have saved so many lives around the world.”

    While changes in broad-scale government programs have long provided economists with natural experiments to inform their models, Kremer and his colleagues developed an iterative strategy that engages—and in some instances, founds—NGOs to deliver social programs that implement and test economic ideas. This approach can reveal the causal forces at play in economic systems, shedding light where observational data cannot. It also offers a proving ground for developing and perfecting effective policies and programs.

    At UChicago, Kremer will lead a new Development Innovation Lab, an initiative that will sit within the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics.

    “I am excited to join the University of Chicago, with its storied tradition of pioneering economics research,” Kremer said. “The new lab will use the tools of economics to develop innovations of practical use for developing countries. By bringing together experts in different fields and working closely with nonprofit organizations, firms and governments in the developing world, we can simultaneously advance knowledge and generate solutions to development challenges which can reach hundreds of millions of people.”

    “Michael’s work simultaneously pushes out the frontier of understanding and has had enormous and lasting impacts on people’s well-being,” said Michael Greenstone, director of the Becker Friedman Institute and the Milton Friedman Distinguished Service Professor in Economics. “He is the perfect person to lead the Development Innovation Lab at BFI, and I know he will catalyze the terrific development economics here into even greater heights, with the ultimate beneficiaries being the field of economics and the world.”

    Kremer is the author of more than 120 academic articles and book chapters. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a 1997 recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship. He has won awards for his work on health economics, agricultural economics and on Latin America.

    Kremer earned his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University in 1992. He was a visiting assistant professor at the University of Chicago in Spring Quarter 1993. Prior to his appointment at Harvard, he was a member of the faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1993 to 1999.

    For more information, please see https://news.uchicago.edu/story/nobel-winning-economist-michael-kremer-join-uchicago-faculty-university-professor.

     

  • Nancy L. Stokey to Receive CME Group-MSRI Prize and Medal

    This article originally appeared on and is available at www.msri.org.

    2021 CME Group-MSRI Prize Announced, to be Awarded May 16

    "The 15th annual CME Group-MSRI Prize in Innovative Quantitative Applications will be awarded to Nancy L. Stokey. The award announcement and seminar will be held on May 16, 2022 at the CME Group in Chicago, IL.

    The CME Group-MSRI Prize is awarded to an individual or a group to recognize originality and innovation in the use of mathematical, statistical or computational methods for the study of the behavior of markets, and more broadly of economics.

    About Nancy L. Stokey

    Portrait of woman in grey blazerNancy L. Stokey is the Frederick Henry Prince Distinguished Service Professor of Economics, University of Chicago.  Stokey is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Fellow of the Econometric Society, a Distinguished Fellow of the American Economic Association, and the 2021 President of the Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory.  She has served as co-editor of Econometrica and of The Journal of Political Economy, and as vice-President of the American Economic Association.

    Stokey is co-author of the influential monograph Recursive Methods in Economic Dynamics (1989), which has provided the mathematical basis for much of modern macroeconomics. She is also co-developer of a model of dynamic taxation and debt policy that has served as the foundation for much subsequent work in that area, and she is author of The Economics of Inaction (2009), which treats models that involve fixed costs of adjustment.

    Stokey has also contributed to various areas of microeconomics, with the first rigorous proof of the famous Coase conjecture, and as co-developer of the No-Trade theorem, a result that presents a fundamental puzzle about information, stock market prices, and the volume of trading.

    Stokey’s recent work has focused on economic growth and development, especially on the role of trade and technology transfers in accelerating growth in middle-income countries."

  • Remembering Hugo Sonnenschein’s vision and kindness as a UChicago leader, scholar

    Colleagues, friends and family share memories of 11th president at April 30 memorial service

    University of Chicago leaders and colleagues joined friends and family of the late Hugo Sonnenschein this past weekend to honor the University’s 11th president, share their warm personal memories, and reflect on his profound impact as a leader, economist and mentor.

    Sonnenschein, who led the University through transformative change during his tenure from 1993 to 2000, died July 15, 2021 at age 80. He was remembered at an April 30 memorial service at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel as someone who had an ambitious vision for the University, along with personal kindness as a colleague and friend.

    “In the arc of any university, each president plays an important role in helping the institution, and the community it comprises, to evolve and to grow,” said President Paul Alivisatos. “Often, it is only with the passage of time that the full scale of the impact of such changes can be fully understood and appreciated.”

    Alivisatos noted that the foundational work that Sonnenschein did laid the groundwork for the remarkable transformation of the College. “Of course, not everybody agreed with Hugo about his ideas—and it wouldn’t be the University of Chicago if they had. But I think we can all agree that his ideas have stood the test of time,” Alivisatos said.

    Chancellor and President Emeritus Robert J. Zimmer said Sonnenschein was able to create long-lasting impact through an independence of perspective and questioning, which he applied equally—whether he was solving an economics problem or leading the University.

    “His focus on thinking through what the right questions are, and the right way to approach them, was very powerful,” Zimmer said. “He was deeply committed to that. That made him an important and impactful leader.”

    As president, Sonnenschein enacted a series of changes to strengthen the University, including growing the size of the College while maintaining the strength of UChicago’s renowned graduate programs. He also spearheaded improvements to the quality of student life and commissioned the first campus master-planning process in 30 years.

    His focus on thinking through what the right questions are, and the right way to approach them, was very powerful.

    - Chancellor Robert J. Zimmer

    Joseph Neubauer, chair of the University’s Board of Trustees, remembered Sonnenschein’s innovative, broad thinking and “indomitable will to get things done.”

    “I still remember him saying at several board meetings: ‘When your friends and family call you for help to get their children into UChicago, then you know that we’ve really arrived,’” Neubauer said. “Well, I’m happy to report that we’ve fulfilled and exceeded your vision—and your mission.”

    Steven Poskanzer, former chief of staff to Sonnenschein, said his mentor never stopped being a teacher, even when he became a University leader. “Only the nature of his classroom and his students shifted. Working alongside Hugo, watching him, was like being Hugo’s doctoral student in the field of academic leadership,” said Poskanzer, who went on to serve as president of SUNY at New Paltz and of Carleton College.

    “He was the finest and most caring of mentors, who changed my life for the better, and was a pillar of joy and friendship for me and my family,” Poskanzer added. “It’s not every UChicago president, you know, who will personally deliver Medici pizza to your house.”

    Poskanzer wasn’t alone in recalling Sonnenschein’s thoughtfulness. Geoffrey Stone, the Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law at UChicago, described Sonnenschein as “the right man, at the right time, at the right place.” Not only did Sonnenschein ask himself how he could add value to an institution, he did so without the self-interest of limiting his own risk. Rather, he placed the University’s interest above that of his own ego.

    Stone, whom Sonnenschein recruited to serve as UChicago provost, recalled how the president opted against the tradition of walking into the Convocation ceremony last and by himself. Instead, he gently took Stone’s arm, pulled him back, and said, “Walk with me.”

    “I am proud to say that I have ever since, and will continue to do for the rest of my days,” Stone said.

    Sonnenschein’s impact also extended far beyond the University and its Hyde Park campus. Renowned economists Andreu Mas-Colell—founder of the Barcelona School of Economics and professor at Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Spain—and Richard Kihlstrom of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania both spoke of their late colleague and friend as a generous spirit who treated his students as colleagues and helped, even from afar.

    The public memorial came after a two-day conference that the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics had convened to honor Sonnenschein. A member of the University community for nearly three decades, he most recently served as the Charles L. Hutchinson Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in the Kenneth C. Griffin Department of Economics.

    “He was the right man, at the right time, at the right place.”

    -Prof. Geoffrey Stone

    Sonnenschein is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Gunn Sonnenschein; their three daughters, Leah Schraudenbach, Amy Venetianer and Rachel Mossi; and five grandchildren.

    His daughters, in a joint statement, said that their father’s greatest fortune was attending the University of Rochester and meeting their mother. They spoke of his unconditional love, and how he taught them the importance of honesty and curiosity as well as how to parallel park, right an upturned canoe, and how to build a fire and clean it up.

    Addressing his grandchildren, they concluded: “He loved you. You stretched him, and he appreciated the stretching. He lives on in you.”

    Read the original story at news.uchicago.edu

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