May 08, 2003

Congratulations to Steve Levitt!!

The American Economic Association awards the John Bates Clark medal every second year to the outstanding economist under forty who has not previously received the award. This year's winner is Steve Levitt.

1947 Paul Samuelson
1949 Kenneth Boulding
1951 Milton Friedman
1953 ----
1955 Jim Tobin
1957 Ken Arrow
1959 Larry Klein
1961 Bob Solow
1963 Hendrick Houthakker
1965 Zvi Griliches
1967 Gary Becker
1969 Marc Nerlove
1971 Dale Jorgenson
1973 Frank Fisher
1975 Dan McFadden
1977 Marty Feldstein
1979 Joe Stiglitz
1981 Michael Spence
1983 Jim Heckman
1985 Jerry Hausman
1987 Sandy Grossman
1989 David Kreps
1991 Paul Krugman
1993 Larry Summers
1995 David Card
1997 Kevin Murphy
1999 Andrei Shleifer
2001 Matt Rabin
2003 Steve Levitt

Some lean left. Some lean right. Some are aggressive. Some are thoughtful. Some are nice. Some are not-so-nice. Some are easy going. Some believe that to allow any error to go uncorrected is to encourage intellectual immorality.

However, the fact that the award is a near-consensus award made by the AEA's executive committee means that those who receive it share one important characteristic--brilliance and incredible industry--no, two characteristics--brilliance, incredible industry, and the luck to be working in a fashionable subfield in economics--no, three characteristics--brilliance,incredible industry, the luck to be working in a fashionable subfield in economics, and a ruthless willingness to look at the evidence and mark their beliefs to market--no, four characteristics--brilliance,incredible industry, the luck to be working in a fashionable subfield in economics, a ruthless willingness to look at the evidence and mark their beliefs to market, and the ability to win 80% of the arguments they enter on the merits and an extra 15% through sheer force of personality.

You get the idea.

Posted by DeLong at May 8, 2003 08:10 PM | TrackBack

Comments

There is a 98% chance that Steve Levitt is rabidly anti-gun!

Posted by: Mary Rosh on May 8, 2003 08:38 PM

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There is a 98% chance that Steve Levitt is rabidly anti-gun!

Posted by: Mary Rosh on May 8, 2003 08:38 PM

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But Reynolds knows Ayres and Donahue so they are more credible.

Posted by: archpundit on May 8, 2003 09:57 PM

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Say, rather, that Ian Ayres is a Professor at Yale Law School, and John Donohue is a Professor and Dean at Stanford Law School. Steve Levitt is a Professor at the University of Chicago Economics Department. Trashing Ayres or Donohue--writing in the National Review that they, say, were unfit to sit on commissions or that their scholarly work was untrustworthy because of bias--would immediately convince a great many people who live in the same professional community Glenn Reynolds does that he is an idiot...

Posted by: Brad DeLong on May 8, 2003 10:28 PM

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Wait, 25% of the charactaristics are an "ability to win 80% of the arguments on merit and an extra 15% through sheer force of personality", does that make .25 * .8 / .15....what color was the taxi again?

Posted by: Stoffel on May 9, 2003 12:11 AM

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That's "Bob" Solow, not "Biob," right? Or am I horribly ignorant of the history of economics?

Posted by: Paul on May 9, 2003 01:00 AM

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It's a silent 'i' :)

Posted by: Barry on May 9, 2003 05:17 AM

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Brad, could you pleasr repair Bob Solow's name?

Posted by: Bobby on May 9, 2003 07:21 AM

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Was the award not granted one year because no person could gain sufficient support? If so, it lends great credibility to the award. Wouldn't it be great if occasionally one of the Nobel comittees (preferably the Peace Prize gang), the Pulitzer board, or, best yet, the Hollywood Academy, came out and said, in effect, "Nobody's that impressive at the moment; see ya' next year!"?

Posted by: Will Allen on May 9, 2003 07:54 AM

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Do the winners typically carry the medal around with them? Levitt could defensively brandish it the next time he is confronted by a gun nut.

Posted by: P O'Neill on May 9, 2003 08:01 AM

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Another shared characteristic--every single one of them is male. What's up with that?

Posted by: rea on May 9, 2003 09:40 AM

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Of course, it doesn't hurt to have gone to the "right" grad school and worked with the professors who then edit the "important" journals. And it doesn't hurt to be on the seminar circuit, where you get to explain your work in detail to potential future journal referees, which also conveniently circumvents that whole "double blind refereeing" process...

Is Steve Levitt brilliant and deserving of the prize? Yep. Is he biased? Yeah, but his bias is less aginst guns per se and more against John Lott personally, and it has shown up in some poor judgements Levitt has made, such as when he put Duggan's "More Guns, More Crime" piece into the Journal of Political Economy. Duggan used subscriptions to a particular gun magazine as his intrument for gun ownership, but it turned out his findings (that gun ownership increased crime) weren't robust when other gun magazines were used as intruments. Oops.

In general, the big prize winners are deserving pathbreakers, and that includes Levitt. But it seems funny that DeLong, so sensitive to market failure in other settings, doesn't seem to consider the big market failure in academics, where you use a pseudo-market of "double-blind refereeing" to try to make up for the fact that you can't have much of a real market where buyers actually purchase researchers' output based on the buyers' own valuations of that output. On top of that, the "double-blind process" itself is subverted in the ways that I mentioned before.

Thus, while the cream may rise over time (Clive Granger springs immediately to mind), there is probably a very inefficient level of path dependence in the profession, where one's graduate school determines one's future path to a greater than optimal degree.

Posted by: KB on May 9, 2003 10:27 AM

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Of course, it doesn't hurt to have gone to the "right" grad school and worked with the professors who then edit the "important" journals. And it doesn't hurt to be on the seminar circuit, where you get to explain your work in detail to potential future journal referees, which also conveniently circumvents that whole "double blind refereeing" process...

Is Steve Levitt brilliant and deserving of the prize? Yep. Is he biased? Yeah, but his bias is less aginst guns per se and more against John Lott personally, and it has shown up in some poor judgements Levitt has made, such as when he put Duggan's "More Guns, More Crime" piece into the Journal of Political Economy. Duggan used subscriptions to a particular gun magazine as his intrument for gun ownership, but it turned out his findings (that gun ownership increased crime) weren't robust when other gun magazines were used as intruments. Oops.

In general, the big prize winners are deserving pathbreakers, and that includes Levitt. But it seems funny that DeLong, so sensitive to market failure in other settings, doesn't seem to consider the big market failure in academics, where you use a pseudo-market of "double-blind refereeing" to try to make up for the fact that you can't have much of a real market where buyers actually purchase researchers' output based on the buyers' own valuations of that output. On top of that, the "double-blind process" itself is subverted in the ways that I mentioned before.

Thus, while the cream may rise over time (Clive Granger springs immediately to mind), there is probably a very inefficient level of path dependence in the profession, where one's graduate school determines one's future path to a greater than optimal degree.

Posted by: KB on May 9, 2003 10:28 AM

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Not only are they all male, but at least half of them are Jewish by my rough calculations- helped by the fact that Larry Summers and his two uncles are winners. Is there a socioeconomic explanation of the connection between being Jewish and academic success in economics? Or is it in the genes, in the same way that only black males have managed to run the 100 meters in less than 10 seconds?

Posted by: A Jewish Non-JBC Winner on May 9, 2003 11:48 AM

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== Yeah, but his bias is less aginst guns per se and more against John Lott personally

Errr...how is that a bias against John Lott personally? That he published a piece that ended up having findings that weren't robust?

I'm somewhat terrified by the notion that publishing a piece that has non-robust findings is a sign of a great failure. Given the number of articles that turn out that way, I'd say all of social science would be in trouble.

Lott's own findings aren't robust so does that mean in his refereed piece they were biased towards Lott?

I have to admit, Levitt probably doesn't care for Lott now.

Posted by: ArchPundit on May 9, 2003 11:48 AM

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Krugman got his by being shrill.

Posted by: wetzel on May 9, 2003 01:41 PM

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I wanted Michael Kremer to get the Clark Medal. I just love his idea about companies selling their patents to the govt and putting it into the public domain, with the price of the patent being determined in an auction.

Posted by: Bobby on May 9, 2003 04:55 PM

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Brad,

This is one of your more brilliant comments:

" a ruthless willingness to look at the evidence and mark their beliefs to market, and the ability to win 80% of the arguments they enter on the merits and an extra 15% through sheer force of personality. "

Thanks.

Posted by: Zack Lynch on May 10, 2003 11:29 AM

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Your text shows a remarkable resemblance with the "spanish inquisition"-scene of Monthy Python!
If you saw it you should mention it; if you didn't
go see it!

Posted by: FransGroenendijk on May 10, 2003 04:33 PM

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Nobody expects the John Bates Clark Medal!

Posted by: George on May 11, 2003 09:15 PM

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"Another shared characteristic--every single one of them is male. What's up with that?"

There's nothing out of the ordinary about that. There's no single hierarchical priesthood that I know of that has significant female representation. :^)

Posted by: andres on May 13, 2003 01:43 PM

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Steve Levitt is one of the smartest people I've ever known. And, typically, when people don't like the results of his studies, they label him biased. After his crime/abortion study, pro-choice advocates attacked him as being anti-abortion at the same time anti-abortion advocates attacked him as being pro-abortion. All I can say is that none of the folks commenting here don't have any legitimate reason to think they know Levitt's position on guns.

Posted by: Greg on January 4, 2004 09:44 PM

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