NBER Reporter: 2008 Number 1 Profiles

NBER Profile: James J. Heckman

James J. Heckman, who shared the 2000 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, is a Research Associate in the NBER's Program on Labor Studies. He is also the Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, where he has served since 1973, and where he directs the Economics Research Center and the Center for Social Program Evaluation at the Harris School. In addition, he is the Professor of Science and Society in University College Dublin and a Senior Research Fellow at the American Bar Foundation.

Heckman received his B.A. in mathematics from Colorado College in 1965 and his Ph.D. in economics from Princeton University in 1971. His work has been devoted to the development of a scientific basis for economic policy evaluation, with special emphasis on models of individuals and disaggregated groups, and to the problems and possibilities created by heterogeneity, diversity, and unobserved counterfactual states. He has developed a body of new econometric tools that address these problems and possibilities. He established a strong causal effect of the 1964 Civil Rights Act on promoting African-American economic progress. He established that GEDS are not the equivalent of high school graduates and perform only slightly better than high school dropouts who do not exam certify. GEDs are as smart as high school graduates but lack noncognitive skills. He has built on this work to develop the economics of personality and motivation.

His recent research focuses on human development and lifecycle skill formation, with a special emphasis on the economics of early childhood. He is currently conducting new social experiments on early childhood interventions and reanalyzing old experiments. His research has given policymakers important new insights into areas such as education, job-training, the importance of accounting for general equilibrium in the analysis of labor markets, anti-discrimination law, and civil rights.

Heckman has published over 250 articles and several books. His most recent books include: Inequality in America: What Role for Human Capital Policy? (with Alan Krueger) and Evaluating Human Capital Policy, and Law and Employment: Lessons From Latin America and the Caribbean (with C. Pages).

Heckman has received numerous awards for his work, including the John Bates Clark Award of the American Economic Association in 1983, the 2005 and 2007 Dennis Aigner Award for Applied Econometrics from the Journal of Econometrics, the 2007 Theodore W. Schultz Award from the American Agricultural Economics Association, the 2005 Jacob Mincer Award for Lifetime Achievement in Labor Economics, and the 2005 Ulysses Medal from the University College Dublin. He is currently Associate Editor of the Journal of Labor Economics and the Journal of Applied Econometrics. He is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Econometric Society, the Society of Labor Economics, and the American Statistical Association.

James J. Heckman
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