• 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.


  • Ali Hortaçsu Awarded Koç University Rahmi M. Koç Medal of Science

    The UChicago economist’s work has focused on assessing the efficiency of markets.

    By Sarah Steimer

    “It's easy to get lost in the day-to-day struggle of getting things done, papers written, data analyzed, and responding to people's comments,” says Ali Hortaçsu, the Ralph and Mary Otis Isham Professor in Economics. “But sometimes it's important to take a step back and say, ‘Okay, what's this all for?’”

    One such opportunity for reflection came by way of an award from his home country: Hortaçsu is this year’s recipient of the Koç University Rahmi M. Koç Medal of Science. The award recognizes individuals of Turkish origin younger than 50 years old who have demonstrated outstanding success and significant progress in their field. The recipient is chosen by a special panel of academic experts and is awarded in alternating years between two fields: science, engineering, and health sciences; and administrative sciences, social sciences, humanities, and law.

    Born and raised in Istanbul, Hortaçsu is the son of two engineering professors. He came to the U.S. to attend Stanford University as an electrical engineering undergrad. But after taking courses in economics, he felt himself pulled toward that field instead. He continued on at Stanford, receiving his PhD in economics in 2001. He’s a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a fellow of the Econometric Society.

    Much of his work has centered on how market mechanisms work and how they can work better. Hortaçsu’s early research was on auction mechanisms, or ways to set prices or discover prices. He and his co-authors wrote some of the earliest papers on internet auctions — including Ebay — in terms of their design, but also issues of trust or reputation mechanisms that help regulate trade between anonymous parties across long distances.

    Hortaçsu has spent considerable time studying the use of different market mechanisms in financial markets, in particular the auctioning of government debt. He worked on the problem of how to design the auction mechanism that allows the U.S. government to refinance its debt, which involves running an auction where banks give different bids on interest rates when issuing bonds.

    He’s worked closely with the European Central Bank on how monetary policy should be implemented through auctions. And in the U.S., he’s also done work on energy markets, focusing on the strategic behavior of generators, such as whether they withhold supply at key moments to inflate the prices. He’s offered guidance to central banks, tech companies, and others as it relates to market mechanisms.

    His articles have appeared in publications including the Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Review, Review of Financial Studies, Econometrica, American Economic Review, Journal of Political Economy, and International Journal of Industrial Organization.

    Hortaçsu notes the impressive resumes of past winners — which includes fellow economist Daron Acemoglu of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — and what an honor it is to be in their company. “It's good to be recognized by one's home country as having contributed to science,” he says. “It also encourages me to work further with scientists, people in my discipline in Turkey and to strengthen my ties there. I think that's a big function of the award. It made me really think about what I have done and where I should go next.”


    To read more about this honor and about Professor Hortaçsu, visit the Koç University website

  • 2021 Student Award Recipients

    The Kenneth C. Griffin Department of Economics is proud to announce this year’s recipients of the Martin and Margaret Lee Prizes and Graduate Student Teaching awards.

    Additionally, two new prizes were awarded in 2021. The first was the Yiran Fan Memorial Prize, a fellowship established in memory of late UChicago Ph.D. student, Yiran Fan, which includes contributions from Fan’s parents and was awarded to a student in the Joint Program in Financial Economics. 

    The second was the George S. Tolley Prize, initiated by economist Vinod Thomas, AM’74, PhD’77 to recognize and reward a third-year doctoral student in the Kenneth C. Griffin Department of Economics whose research paper demonstrates the potential for the impact of economic analysis on policy. 


    Lee Prize Award Winners

    Highest Score Earned on the Price Theory Core Exam - Pictured from left to right: Feng Lin, Grant Vaska

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    Highest Score Earned on the Theory of Income Core Exam - Pictured from left to right: Feng Lin, Xianglong Kong

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    Highest Score Earned on the Quantitative Methods Core Exam - Karen Wu

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    Graduate Student Teaching Award Winners

    Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award - Francesco Ruggieri

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    Yiran Fan Memorial Prize

    Sangmin S. Oh

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    George S. Tolley Prize

    For "Exchange Rate Policy and Heterogeneity in Small Open Economies" - Aleksei Oskolkov

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