• UChicago Grad Student, Francesco Ruggieri, honored for exemplary teaching

    Francesco Ruggieri Honored for Exemplary Teaching

    Portrait of man in glasses, wearing blue sweater, standing in front of modern buildingsPrior to coming to UChicago, econometrics was among Francesco Ruggieri’s least favorite courses. Econometrics is at a unique intersection between economic and statistical theory, he said, but for a long time, he thought of them as disjoint fields.

    He now teaches it to undergraduates despite its lack of popularity among students. Managing the subject’s synergies between data and theory is one of the key lessons Ruggieri aims to teach.

    'Letting the data speak for themselves is an illusion,' Ruggieri said. 'The data alone can certainly provide interesting descriptive insights, but theoretical models – even simple frameworks with mild assumptions – are necessary to guide our understanding of real-world phenomena and have an impact on policy.'

    Ruggieri employs a unique teaching approach to help students with this difficult course: short recaps of the previous lecture at the beginning of each class. During this portion of the class, Ruggieri encourages students to 'fill intentional gaps' in his summaries in order to foster engagement in a course in which the material is cumulative.

    Ruggieri said he deeply values the chance to teach UChicago students, who he said have a natural inquisitiveness and desire to achieve a deep understanding of class material. He particularly appreciates the ways in which students draw connections across their courses.

    He also said he values the chance to discuss careers in academia with students hoping to enroll in doctoral programs in economics.

    'Navigating these steps can be intimidating at first because admission to doctoral programs is competitive and information on how best to proceed is not widely available,' Ruggieri said. 'Having experienced the same career uncertainty only a few years ago, I particularly enjoy devoting time to mentoring undergraduate students who are interested in economics research.'"

    Read the full, original article here. 


  • Ken Griffin, ex-Google CEO back UChicago accelerator with lofty goals

    By John Pletz

    May 15, 2023 01:29 PM

    "Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Citadel founder Ken Griffin are backing a new University of Chicago-led effort to jumpstart private-sector solutions to some very big public problems such as pandemics and climate change.

    The Market Shaping Accelerator is led by Michael Kremer, who won a Nobel Prize in economics in 2019 for work on poverty before coming to U of C. He's joined by fellow U of C economist Rachel Glennerster, as well as Christopher Snyder, an economics professor at Dartmouth College. 

    One piece of the program involves using cash to crowdsource ideas that could be used to tackle problems for which the market so far hasn't created solutions. The accelerator will give away $2 million in prizes over the next year to people to turn existing ideas into reality, ideally in the form of signed contracts or purchase commitments.

    Leah Rosenzweig, director of the Market Shaping Accelerator, says it's focusing on 'pull mechanisms,' or commitments from the market, to subsidize the purchase of a specific innovation if it is brought to market. They differ from government grants, or 'pushing' funding toward scientists to work on particular fields of research. 

    The accelerator will start accepting applications for the prizes this week, selecting the first group of winners by the end of the summer.

    'The goal is to help government, philanthropy, innovators and private companies accelerate innovation to solve these global challenges,' says Rosenzweig, who leads a staff of five.

    She points to how five countries and the Gates Foundation pledged $1.5 billion in 2007 to subsidize and incentivize development and production of a vaccine for pneumococcal disease, which was killing children in developing countries. The commitment helped bridge the gap between the cost of the vaccines and the price developing nations could pay, leading to vaccinations of 50 million children.

    'We don't know when the next pandemic will hit but we know it's coming and we know, on average, we will lose $800 billion every single year (in expectation) to pandemics,' Glennerster, an associate professor of economics at U of C, said in a statement. 'There are lots of great ideas about how to protect against the next pandemic, including vaccines that could protect against any future coronavirus or any future flu. But how do we make sure these are produced at sufficient scale that everyone can benefit from them when the next pandemic hits?'

    The U of C accelerator launched last week with a reception at the International Monetary Fund in Washington, D.C. 

    Griffin and Schmidt's financial contributions to the program were not specified. Although they come from different industries and opposite ends of the political spectrum, two have a shared interest in U of C. Griffin donated $125 million to the school in 2017. The school's department of economics is named for him. Griffin, who moved to Miami last year, also has donated to the university's Chicago Crime Lab. 

    U of C is among nine universities with postdoctoral fellowships in artificial intelligence funded by Schmidt Futures, a philanthropy founded by Schmidt and his wife, Wendy. Nearly a decade ago, the Schmidts funded a summer fellowship program with a focus on using data science for social good."

    This article appeared in Crain's Chicago Business. Read the original article here

  • Robert E. Lucas Jr., Nobel laureate and pioneering economist, 1937-2023

    Portrait of man in suit and glasses

    Robert E. Lucas Jr., the John Dewey Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in Economics and the College, was a member of the University of Chicago faculty for four decades.


    University of Chicago scholar’s research on rational expectations transformed the field of macroeconomics

    Robert E. Lucas Jr., a Nobel Prize-winning economist whose revolutionary theories transformed the field of macroeconomics and our understanding of economic policy, died May 15. He was 85.

    A member of the University of Chicago faculty for four decades, Lucas, AB’59, PhD’64, was the John Dewey Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in Economics and the College. He won the Nobel Prize in 1995 for developing and applying the hypothesis of rational expectations, which holds that people make economic choices based on their previous experiences and future expectations. In announcing the Nobel, the Swedish Academy of Sciences called Lucas “the economist who has had the greatest influence on macroeconomic research since 1970.”

    Lucas’ pioneering research had a profound effect on the field of economics. His work has shown that because people make rational decisions about their economic welfare, their actions can alter the expected results of government policies. It had ripple effects in macroeconomic analysis and economic policy, because it gave governments and central banks a more critical way to think about fiscal intervention.

    The idea that economists cannot sufficiently predict the effects of policy changes unless they incorporate individual decisions, especially expectations of the policy itself, is known as the “Lucas critique.” It is one of several major contributions Lucas made to economic theory over his field-defining career—from areas ranging from investment to unemployment, economic growth to monetary policy.

    “Bob leaves behind a legacy of revolutionary research, teaching and leadership that transformed the field of economics and this department,” said Prof. Robert Shimer, chair of the Kenneth C. Griffin Department of Economics at UChicago. “Bob was always curious about new ideas—even ideas that seemed opposed to his fundamental contributions to economic thought. He could talk economics for hours, with insights informed by his deep knowledge of economic history, economic data and economic theory. I will miss him.”

    Hypothesis of rational expectations

    Though theories about rational expectations had previously existed, Lucas’ pioneering work applied the theory to the economy as a whole. Throughout the 1970s, he published several papers which further developed the hypothesis, first created in 1961 by John Muth.

    In 1972, Lucas published his groundbreaking paper “Expectations and the Neutrality of Money,” in which he applied rational expectations to the “Phillips curve,” which shows the relationship between inflation and unemployment. 

    Though the prevailing thought was that increased inflation could lower unemployment rates, Lucas’ dynamic model showed that inflation had no effect on the long-run-average—a breakthrough idea called the Lucas islands model.

    Nobel laureate Edward Prescott once said he could “think of no paper in economics as important” as the 1972 paper. Lucas’ longtime UChicago colleague, Nobel laureate Gary Becker, once recalled that Lucas’ research “was initially met with hostility, but it came to be accepted as the view of the future.”

    “The effect of his work is to really change the way economists think about macroeconomics,” said the late UChicago economist Sherwin Rosen in 1995, on the day Lucas won his Nobel Prize. “It kind of destroyed the Keynesian model. This really took a lot of the thunder out of the Keynesian way of thinking.”

    In addition to his Nobel Prize-winning work on rational expectations, Lucas is also remembered for his contributions to New Classical economic theory and many other major contributions that include his name: the Uzawa-Lucas model of human capital accumulation, the “Lucas paradox,” which examines why capital does not flow to developing countries from developed ones as often as would be expected; the Lucas Tree, a foundational theory on asset prices; and the Lucas span-of-control, his read on the theory of the firm.

    “It has been my privilege to have been Bob Lucas’ colleague since the early 1980s,” said Nobel laureate Lars Peter Hansen, the David Rockefeller Distinguished Service Professor in Economics, Statistics and the Booth School of Business. “Bob was truly an outstanding intellect in the group of scholars who made Chicago economics extraordinary. I remember many conversations with Bob that helped me address challenges in my own research.”

    ‘Chicago has been a marvelous place for me’

    Born Sept. 15, 1937 in Yakima, Washington, Lucas at age 17 earned a scholarship to the University of Chicago. He traveled by train almost 2,000 miles to start his undergraduate degree in 1955—an experience Lucas recalled in his Nobel biography:

    “When I began the 44-hour train trip ‘back east’ to Chicago,” he wrote, “I was pretty sure something interesting would turn up.”

    As a history major, Lucas was fascinated by the economic lives of people living in the Roman Empire. He pivoted to economics for his doctorate, learning from pioneering economists including Milton Friedman. In 1962, he became a lecturer at UChicago and began his prolific research career.

    “Bob leaves behind a legacy of revolutionary research, teaching and leadership that transformed the field of economics and this department.”

    —Prof. Robert Shimer, chair of the Kenneth C. Griffin Department of Economics

    Though he left Chicago to teach at Carnegie Mellon University in 1963, Lucas returned to UChicago in 1974 and remained there for the next 40 years—retiring from teaching in 2015 but continuing to conduct research and mentor students well into his 80s.

    “Chicago has been a marvelous place for me, as I knew it would be from my student experiences,” Lucas wrote in 1995. “I have been stimulated by colleagues and graduate teaching into research on monetary theory, international-trade, fiscal policy, and economic growth: all the basic topics in macroeconomics.”

    He authored several books, including Studies in Business-Cycle Theory (1981), Rational Expectations and Econometric Practice (1981, with Thomas Sargent) and Recursive Methods in Economic Dynamics (1989, with Nancy Stokey and Edward Prescott). Lucas’ Lectures on Economic Growth were published in 2002, and his Collected Papers on Monetary Theory in 2013.

    “Bob was truly an outstanding intellect in the group of scholars who made Chicago economics extraordinary.”

    —Prof. Lars Peter Hansen

    Lucas regularly attended workshops and faculty lunches at UChicago until earlier this year. Colleagues remember how he was welcoming of young scholars, helping mentor and co-author research with them. His former students included several distinguished scholars in academia and government.

    “Bob Lucas was one of the architects of modern economics,” said Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, PhD’02, the Glen A. Lloyd Distinguished Service Professor in the Kenneth C. Griffin Department of Economics at UChicago. “His work provided key foundations for the way we understand virtually all topics in economics. To me, he was an intellectual father, a role model and a friend.” 

    The recipient of many honors, Lucas was a fellow of the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences, and a past president of the Econometric Society and the American Economic Association.

    Lucas is survived by his partner Nancy Stokey, the Frederick Henry Prince Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at UChicago and a frequent co-author; his sons with his first wife, Rita Cohen Lucas: Stephen and Joseph; his sister Jenepher Spurr; his brother Peter J. Lucas; and grandchildren Lily, Ginger, Michael, Solomon and Sophia.

    In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in Lucas’ name to Doctors Without Borders. Information on a public memorial is forthcoming.

    This article originally published at news.uchicago.edu.

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