Five World-Renowned Economics Scholars Accept Joint Appointments at Law School

The University of Chicago Law School has never lacked for talent in economics scholarship. Ronald Coase’s Nobel Prize was the first in economics to be given to a faculty member at a law school. Seven current faculty members of the Law School have PhDs in economics and several others have master’s degrees or other coursework in economics. And, of course, being part of the same University as one of the finest economics departments and one of the best business schools in the world has created tremendous opportunities for collaboration for both our faculty and our students.

With the creation of the University of Chicago Law School Institute for Law and Economics, however, it is time to take that tradition of collaboration to the next level. Five scholars from the Department of Economics and the Booth School of Business have accepted appointments to the Law School faculty beginning this fall. These five extraordinary scholars are at different points in their careers, but are each already at the top of their field.

“Bringing these incredible economic minds closer into our community is an amazing opportunity for the Law School,” said Dean Michael Schill. “I cannot wait to see what world-changing ideas and groundbreaking scholarship comes from having these scholars working more closely with Law School faculty members. I also hope that our students will have the opportunity to take classes with these professors.”

The five scholars include two Nobel Prize winners and three others who may soon join them. Four have been awarded the John Bates Clark Medal, which is given once every two years to the most outstanding American economist under the age of 40. All are appointed in the Department of Economics, and some of them are also appointed in such departments and schools as the Booth School of Business, the Harris School of Public Policy Studies, and the Department of Sociology. They are no strangers to interdisciplinary work, nor to formulating ideas that have tremendous and wide-reaching impact. Their influence on the Law School will benefit this community for decades to come.


Gary Becker is University Professor in Economics, Sociology, the Booth School, and the Law School. Becker has pioneered study in the fields of human capital, economics of the family, and economic analysis of crime, discrimination, addiction, and population. He is the author of more than twelve books and more than fifty articles. Becker’s work has been foundational to the field of law and economics.

In 1992, Becker won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences “for having extended the domain of microeconomic analysis to a wide range of human behavior and interaction, including non-market behavior.” He also is the Rose-Marie and Jack R. Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, a Research Associate of the Economics Research Center at the National Opinion Research Center, and an associate member of the Institute of Fiscal and Monetary Policy for the Ministry of Finance in Japan.

Becker completed his undergraduate work summa cum laude in mathematics at Princeton University, where he “accidentally took a course in economics” as a freshman and was “greatly attracted by the mathematical rigor of a subject that dealt with social organization.” He earned a master’s degree and a PhD from the University of Chicago, where he was inspired by Milton Friedman. His doctorate was awarded in 1955. Becker also holds honorary degrees from several institutions, including Princeton University, Harvard University, Columbia University, and Hitotsubashi University in Japan. He was an assistant professor in economics at the University of Chicago from 1954 to 1957, then taught at Columbia University from 1957 to 1969, before he returned to Chicago.

Becker is a founding member of the National Academy of Education and a fellow in the American Statistical Association, the Econometric Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population. He also is a member of the American Economic Association, of which he was president in 1987.

Becker has been awarded the John Bates Clark Medal, the Seidman Award, and the first social science Award of Merit from the National Institute of Health. He was awarded the National Medal of Science in 2000 for his work in social policy.

Becker’s current research focuses on habits and addictions, formation of preferences, human capital, and population growth. He was a featured columnist for BusinessWeek for nearly twenty years and is currently coauthor of the Law School–hosted Becker-Posner Blog with Richard Posner, Senior Lecturer at the Law School.


James J. Heckman is the Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor in Economics and the Law School, an affiliate professor in the Harris School of Public Policy, and the director of the Economics Research Center and the Center for Social Program Evaluation at the Harris School. His groundbreaking work with a consortium of economists, developmental psychologists, sociologists, statisticians, and neuroscientists has proven that the quality of early childhood development heavily influences health, economic, and social outcomes for individuals and society at large. Heckman’s voluminous and influential scholarship also includes seminal work in the fields of labor economics and discrimination. In 2010, Heckman cosponsored a conference at the Law School with Professor Martha Nussbaum, “Creating Capabilities: Sources and Consequences for Law and Social Policy.”

Heckman received his BA in mathematics from Colorado College in 1965 and his PhD in economics from Princeton University in 1971. He is on the editorial board of the Journal of Applied Econometrics and served as coeditor of the Handbook of Econometrics, volumes 5 and 6. He is a fellow of the Econometric Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, and a resident member of the American Philosophical Society. He is a fellow of the American Statistical Association, the International Statistical Institute, the Journal of the Econometrics, the Society of Labor Economics, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is also a lifetime member of the Irish Economic Association. He is the Professor of Science and Society at University College Dublin and a Senior Research Fellow at the American Bar Foundation.

Heckman has received numerous honors, including the John Bates Clark Medal from the American Economic Association in 1983 and the Dennis J. Aigner Award in 2005 and 2007 for the best empirical paper in the Journal of Econometrics. He received the Ulysses Medal from University College Dublin in 2005. He received the Mincer Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Society of Labor Economics in 2005. He also received the Distinguished Contributions to Public Policy for Children Award from the Society for Research in Child Development in 2009. In 2000, Heckman was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his development of theory and methods for analyzing selective samples and the evaluation of public policy.


Steve Levitt is the William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor in Economics and the Law School and the editor of the Journal of Political Economy. He received his BA from Harvard University in 1989 and his PhD from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1994. He has taught at Chicago since 1997. In 2004, Levitt was awarded the John Bates Clark Medal, and he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001. In 2006, he was named one of Time magazine’s “100 People Who Shape Our World.”

Levitt is the coauthor of Freakonomics, which spent over two years on the New York Times best seller list and has sold more than three million copies worldwide. His follow-up book, SuperFreakonomics, includes brand new research on topics from terrorism to prostitution to global warming. Levitt is also the coauthor of the popular New York Times Freakonomics Blog. Levitt has coauthored several works with Law School Professor Tom Miles, including multiple articles on the economics of criminal law and a paper on the role of skill versus luck in poker, utilizing data from the 2010 World Series of Poker.

Levitt is one of the nation’s leading microeconomists and has done pioneering and influential work on natural experiments in economics. He studies a wide range of topics, including the economic aspects of crime, corruption, and education. Levitt’s work on various economic topics, including crime, politics, and sports, includes over sixty academic publications. In his most well-known and controversial paper, “The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime” (2001), he demonstrated from statistics that the legalization of abortion in the United States was followed approximately sixteen years later by a reduction in crime. He then argued that unwanted children commit more crime and that the legalization of abortion resulted in fewer unwanted children, thus a reduction in crime as these children reached an age at which many criminals begin committing crimes.


John List is the Homer J. Livingston Professor in Economics and the Law School. He received his PhD from the University of Wyoming and held positions at the University of Central Florida, the University of Arizona, and the University of Maryland before coming to the University of Chicago. List has been at the forefront of environmental economics and has served as senior economist on the President’s Council of Economic Advisors for Environmental and Resource Economics. He is also a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, a Research Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), and a University Fellow at Tilburg University in the Netherlands. In 2011, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

List is best known as one of the world’s leading experts on experimental economics. He has pioneered work using field experiments in which he developed scientific methods for testing economic theory directly in the marketplace. He received the Kenneth Galbraith Award from the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association in 2010 and the 2008 Arrow Prize for Senior Economists for his research on behavioral economics in the field. To obtain data for his field experiments, he has made use of several different markets, including countless charitable fundraising activities, the Chicago Board of Trade, Costa Rican CEOs, the new automobile market, sports memorabilia markets, coin markets, auto repair markets, open-air markets located throughout the globe, various venues on the Internet, several auction settings, shopping malls, various labor markets, and grammar and high schools. His work has provided insight on such issues as pricing behavior, market structure, the valuation of nonmarketed goods and services, the impact of environmental regulation, the economics of charitable giving, and the impact of incentives on education and weight loss.

Recently, List has been involved in creating an experimental laboratory that will bear fruit in the education literature for years to come. He, along with Chicago economist Steven Levitt and Harvard economist Roland Fryer are establishing the Griffin Early Childhood Center. This program, funded generously by Chicago philanthropists Kenneth and Anne Griffin, will focus on understanding how best to educate the nation’s youth. Additionally, List continues to be active in the field of environmental economics, with recent field experiments on environmental technology adoption. As head of the Department of Economics graduate program, List is actively working with the Law School to launch a joint JD/PhD program in Law and Economics.


Kevin Murphy is the George J. Stigler Distinguished Service Professor in Economics, the Booth School, and the Law School. He has been a member of the Chicago faculty since 1983. Born in 1958, he received a BA in economics from the University of California at Los Angeles, where he was Phi Beta Kappa, in 1981. He received a PhD in economics from the University of Chicago in 1986, writing his thesis on specialization and human capital.

Murphy is the recipient of the 1997 John Bates Clark Medal of the American Economic Association. He was cited for his study of the causes of growing income inequality in the United States between white-collar and blue-collar workers. His findings link the growth in income inequality to growth in the demand for skilled labor. Murphy is the first professor at a business school to be chosen as a MacArthur Fellow in the twenty-five years that the awards have been given. He was selected for “revealing economic forces shaping vital social phenomena such as wage inequality, unemployment, addiction, medical research, and economic growth.” The foundation felt his work “challenges preconceived notions and attacks seemingly intractable economic questions, placing them on a sound empirical and theoretical footing.”

Murphy is the recipient of numerous other awards and fellowships, including a Sloan Foundation Fellowship and an Earhart Foundation Fellowship. He is a Fellow of the Econometric Society, a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the author of two books and more than sixty published articles. His most recent research has focused on returns to education and skill, unemployment, human capital and growth, and income inequality. Articles about Murphy’s research have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and many local papers.