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Saez Takes Home the Clark Medal

Congratulations to Emmanuel Saez, winner of this year’s John Bates Clark medal given to the most influential economist under the age of 40 by the American Economic Association.
Emmanuel’s work focuses on issues of inequality and taxation. He has made both theoretical and empirical contributions.
I remember vividly the first time I met Emmanuel. I think it was 1998. I was in charge of junior recruiting for the University of Chicago economics department. Having read through all the applications, I decided there were two candidates we absolutely needed to hire at Chicago: Emmanuel Saez and Esther Duflo. By chance, they both happened to be at MIT, and they both happened to be French. To top it all off, they also happened to be romantically involved at the time.
So we broke with the standard conventions, and instead of waiting until the annual January meetings to interview them, we invited them out to Chicago in December to present their research. It is something we have done only a few times in the decade I’ve been here. I drove across town to visit them in their hotel the day before their talk, expecting to meet two egocentric, haughty, but brilliant French phenoms. I discovered I was correct on only one of my three predictions: brilliant, yes, but neither haughty nor egocentric. Indeed, they were remarkably mild-mannered and self-deprecating. Shortly after their visit, we made unanimous offers to both of them.
Unfortunately, virtually all the other top departments did the same, and neither Emmanuel nor Esther accepted our offer.
Those outside of economics might wonder what has happened to Esther in the ensuing years. Let’s just say she has been doing pretty well for herself: she is the odds on favorite to win the Clark medal in 2010.