The No-Cigar Medal

Other than winning the Nobel Prize, getting the John Bates Clark medal is the best thing that can happen to an economist. Without question, winning the Clark medal in 2003 totally changed my life. It was because of the Clark medal that Dubner came out to interview me, and eventually Freakonomics was born.

The Clark medal used to be awarded every other year. Recently, the decision was made to give it out every year. This year’s prize is announced later this week.

On his site Economic Principals, David Warsh has put together
his list of the “No Cigar” medal winners, i.e. the economists who would have won the Clark medal if it had been given out annually instead of bi-annually as in the past.

I was happy to see my friend and colleague John List (rightfully) topping the No-Cigar list. If John were a year younger, or the prize had gone annual a year earlier, there is no doubt he would have won a Clark Medal.

If you take the union of Nobel Prize winners, Clark medal winners, and No-Cigar winners, you cover more than half of the tenured faculty in the University of Chicago economics department. No other department even comes close to that.


Getting a medal is the best thing that can happen to an economist? Without question?

Glad I went into another line of work.

Tariq F

Funny you boast of the department's past excellence at precisely a time when the Chicago School - and it's focus on neoclassical economics, free-markets, and the completely nonsensical Efficient Markets Hypothesis - has been thoroughly discredited.

Keynesian Economics are now the rage. Haven't you heard?

Tariq F

(Though to be fair, Levitt and List's work varies quite differently from that of the free-market / deregulation ideologues whose views played a large part in the current crisis.)


Tariq F- Sorry but this isn't the case. You may say it's so, but, sadly, that doesn't make it so. EMH though really shouldn't be lumped with "free-market." Loose lips here. "Thoroughly" is also an incorrect level of assertion.

John F

Tariq: The Chicago school tends to focus on free markets and the EMH, though these themes are commonplace in economics as a whole, and are not unique to the Chicago school.

It's a stretch to say that the Chicago school (even as you have defined it) is thoroughly discredited, especially when economists are still trying to learn about what exactly caused the crisis. There are certainly regulations which would have ameliorated the effects of the crisis (much more visible in hindsight - as most things are) though there was no shortage of government involvement in the housing market and elsewhere up until now which has also played a strong role, too.

As far as Keynesian economics being the rage - let's remember that political popularity is not equivalent to good theory.


@Fenn, what exactly is your line of work? Getting a medal (Nobel Prize, Presidential Medal of Freedom, Congressional Medal of Honor, etc.) is also the probably best thing that can happen to... chemists, physicists, biologists, mathematicians, engineers, world leaders, and members of the military, and beyond.

Is your career so much better than those? Will you leave a more lasting imprint on the world than any medal-winner in any of those fields? More importantly, do you have a Wikipedia page? =)


Stephen, Do they plan on giving it to the actual economist under 40 that made the most significant contribution (like List) or do they plan on simply giving it to a woman again to make a political statement?


"Covers half of the tenured faculty in the University of Chicago economics department"... Valuing an economist's work with the medal and prizes he won can often be misleading... Why is that Avinash Dixit is not on the Clark Medal and Nobel Prize list?? One could easily argue that Professor Dixit's work is much, much better that 3/4 of the Clark Medal and Nobel Prize winners...


Prof. Levitt,

So how many of you fellow UoC economists predicted our current situation? I'm guessing none, though I may be wrong.


Is there selection bias? Do those giving out the medals simply prefer the ideology of Chicago's department? I know you're just bragging, but you're also smart enough to see the error of your (implied) assertion.


It's funny you say this, given my current position. I applied to Chicago for undergraduate economics this year, and am currently on the wait list. While there's little I can do through the admissions office, is there anyway my status as a long time freakonomics blog reader and commentator could give me a slight boost?

Shoot me an email. Whether or not it has any impact on my admissions, there are some questions I'd like to ask.


Wow, I'm entirely shocked, but I just got removed from the waitlist. Thanks!!!