Susan Athey wins Clark Medal

The John Bates Clark Medal is given every two years to the American economist under the age of 40 who is deemed most influential. Congratulations to Susan Athey, a Harvard professor, who won the award today! She is the first woman to win the award.

I got to know Susan and her husband Guido Imbens very well four years ago when I spent the year at Stanford, where she taught at the time. She was a pillar of that department and when she and Guido left for Harvard, it was a real loss for Stanford (and for Berkeley, where Guido taught).

Susan has been a favorite to win this prize since she left graduate school. When she was looking for her first job as a freshly minted Ph.D., the New York Times profiled her as the superstar of her cohort. Looks like they got it right.

While the committee is quite tight-lipped about others in the running, my hunch is that my colleague and co-author John List was likely the runner-up. Others who I imagine might have been on the short list: Marianne Bertrand, Esther Duflo, Austan Goolsbee, Sendhil Mullainathan, Ilya Segal, and Rob Shimer. University of Chicago economists are over-represented on my list partly because we have many of the top young economists, but also because I know how old the economists here are with much more precision than at other schools. So apologies to those whose names I should have included on this list, but didn’t.


stiffed because you Canadian ....

Cyril Morong

Professor Levitt:

Could you point us to any other links that would explain some more of her work to a general audience? Is there anything about her work that could be shared in a principles class?

Also, what do you think of "a legislated inflation cap to limit discretion?" This is mentioned at the AEA site about her award.


Legislated inflation caps don't go nearly far enough. We need legislated currency in circulation caps so the bureaucrats on Constitution Avenue can't continue their nefarious debasement of the dollar.


But Duflo is French...

I thought the John Bates Clark Medal is only for American economists.


I thought that name sounded familiar... it was from when her grad school admission tip page at .


"University of Chicago economists are over-represented on my list partly because we have many of the top young economists, but also because I know how old the economists here are with much more precision than at other schools. So apologies to those whose names I should have included on this list, but didn't."

Oh puhleese! The only thing that comment tells is that Levitt is quite naturally bitten by the Chicago bug (since he works there) and doesn't have much of a clue about economists outside Chicago. But on the truer side of things I would argue that most of the work done by most economists at most times in most places (including Chicago) is mostly useless, like any other profession so to speak!


Yes, it is odd that Andy Porter from the University of Maryland was not mention by Dr. Levitt.


Andy Porter is still an undergrad. It was quite sharp of him to point out the mistake, but anyone doing an econometric theory class should be able to point out the flaw provided they are doing their homework! It will take him at least 15 years of serious studying and publishing quality work till he is around 35-40yrs old before he can even be considered to be put in the same rank as any of the above mentioned people by Levitt.


I once went to a talk by Mullianathan. The guy is a half-freak and a full-genius! If I had half the level of intellect as that dude, I would be able to make a decent career for myself. Instead of studying I spend my time on blogs like these.

The Clark medal like the Noble prize is a pretty good sign of quality work, but it should be remembered that like any other prize the selection committee is filled with its own biases and a lot of top work gets ignored for rather silly reasons or because the selection committee wasn't aware of it (after all they can know only so much). Susan Athey is a good economist and its great that she is the first female to win the prize. An example of another top female economist (who could be considered at least as good or even better than Athey) who should've gotten a Noble prize but didn't is Joan Robinson!


D*mn, I've become procrastinatin_econ's straight man.


Gene Fama is arguably the most influential social scientist of the 20th century, and he still hasn't won a Nobel Prize. It just shows how random these awards are.


I doubt whether Fama is the most influential social scientist of the 20th century, but his work is pretty impressive.


procrastinating_econ, Gene Fama is in fact the most influential social scientist of the 20th century. Who would you consider even close to on par with him?


First, I thinks its a very silly thing to even attempt to single out just one guy as the most influential social scientist for a really productive century. And I don't know what criterion you are using to make this rather strange claim. Is it just cauz finance involves a lot of money??? I doubt whether you have surveyed even the 1% of all top social scientists for that matter.

Anyhow, heres a teeeny-tiny list for you to consider,

Kenneth Arrow (Do I need to explain what this guy has done?)
Paul Samuelson (even this one shouldn't need an introduction)
JR Hicks (father of indifference curve analysis)
Joan Robinson (mother of Imperfect competition)
Jon Von Neumann (this guy contributed to so many fields that makes Fama look like a baby intellectual)
John Nash, Keynes, Friedman..and so on!

Psychology- Sigmund Freud, BF Skinner, William James (I can't remember others but i'm sure there r plenty of others)

Ludwig Wittgenstien (ok not exactly a social scientist, but he started off the field of linguistics which very much belongs to social science)
Noam Chomsky (for his work in linguistics and poly science)

This is itself way tooooo small and limited by the names I can get off my head and my own biases. If you search properly and study you will realise that there are a heck of a lot of more people who have contributed to contributed to social science per say. I can't believe I have to say all this!

If you are going to make a claim that Fama is the MOST influential social scientist you have the burden to prove that his work was more influential than ALL of those people and more! EMH was a cool idea, but good luck comparing him with all of these people.

If you are able to go through the works of even .01% of all the top social scientists and realise that its not possible to prove that this guy was the most influential you will do well enough to become a pretty serious intellectual yourself. Good Luck!