John Bates Clark Medal

by Kieran Healy on April 21, 2007

Not content with their Nobel Prize, Economists also emulate Mathematics with their Fields Medal analog, the “John Bates Clark Medal”: This year, for the first time, the winner is a woman: Harvard’s “Susan Athey”: Congratulations to her. (Hat tip: “Brad DeLong”:



dsquared 04.21.07 at 9:47 am

the JBC medal isn’t really all that much like the Fields Medal, no matter how much Paul Krugman and Stephen Levitt like to pretend it is. And it’s only for Americans. It’s more on the level of “Young UEFA Footballer of the Year”. Interestingly, since Krugman got the NYT column, wrote his textbook, got married and in general became a less insecure and nicer personality, he has almost entirely stopped banging about that bloody John Bates Clark medal.

Athey’s award is great news, by the way, as it means that for the first time in quite a while, the AEA has decided to award the medal for someone doing economics, rather than awful amateur-hour psychology and sociology.


dearieme 04.21.07 at 2:16 pm

And, of course, it’s really only a quasi-Nobel Prize, innit?


radek 04.21.07 at 6:51 pm

I agree with dsquared that it’s nice to see a nod to theory (more precisely theoretical foundations for empirical work) rather then ad hoc empirics that seem to have overstayed their welcome in the past ten years or so.

And no the JBC medal is nothing like the Fields’ medla. But so what? (same response applies to the Nobel prize thing)


alex 04.21.07 at 6:56 pm

Another difference between the medals is that twice as many people get the fields: usually four people get the fields every four years, in contrast to one person every two years for the jbc.


aa 04.21.07 at 8:56 pm

Yes well if the only thing that seems significant about the Fields medal is the age restriction maybe they should stop giving it.

Colbert was heartbroken about not getting it last time. Somebody should have told him it was because he was too old.


Isaac 04.21.07 at 9:02 pm


Care to elaborate on the “amateur hour psychology and sociology”? Looking at the list it seems like maybe Levitt (2003) and Rabin (2001) would fall under that, but Acemoglu (2005) and all others don’t qualify…


radek 04.21.07 at 9:05 pm

I wouldn’t put Rabin in there either, but dsquared is probably referring to the general profiligation of a particular type of empirical research rather then to the recipients to the award per se.


Barry 04.21.07 at 9:40 pm

Posted by dsquared: “Interestingly, since Krugman got the NYT column, wrote his textbook, got married and in general became a less insecure and nicer personality, he has almost entirely stopped banging about that bloody John Bates Clark medal.”

In other words, since he racked up additional accomplishments – both professional and personal.

Similarly, I imagine that a ‘graduating Ph.D. student of the year’ award would become less significant as the recipient moves through his/her career (if not, they aren’t doing so well).

The additional factor (me interpreting Krugman’s words) is that the overwhelming mendacity and crap of the Bush years has focused him a bit. The run of the mill ‘policy entrepreneurs’ of the 80’s and 90’s seem less harmful now.


dsquared 04.21.07 at 10:58 pm

Isaac: I was also thinking about Shleifer and agree that Acemoglu certainly deserved it.


dr green 04.21.07 at 11:07 pm


The Bates Medal is not strictly for Americans: Andrei Shleifer (Russia), Acemoglu (Turkey), David Card (Canada), etc. have won it as well. I believe the criterion is merely that you must be employed in the US.

Incidentaly, there is something over in Europe called the Yrjö Jahnsson Prize, also awarded every other year to the top economist(s) for work done under the age of 40. The most recent recipients were Tim Besley and Jordi Gali.


John Quiggin 04.21.07 at 11:13 pm

Just adding my congratulations to Susan Athey, who’s very good.


Matt 04.22.07 at 1:37 am

Andrei Shleifer should be given an extra award for stealing from the tax payers of both his native and his adoptive country. Not too many people could have pulled that off on as good of a level as he did at such a young age!


alex 04.22.07 at 7:56 am

perhaps the economists at ct can write something explaining the significance of athey’s work to a general audience?

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