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April 25, 2003 Press Contact: William Harms
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University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt receives John Bates Clark Medal

Steven Levitt, a leading micro-economist at the University of Chicago, has received the prestigious John Bates Clark Medal from the American Economics Association for his pioneering and influential work on natural experiments in economics. The medal, bestowed every two years, recognizes the nation's most outstanding economist under 40.

Levitt, 35, the Alvin H. Baum Professor in Economics and the College at Chicago, has been a University faculty member since 1997. He studies a wide range of topics including the economic aspects of crime, corruption and education.

Levitt, editor of the Journal of Political Economy, is the author of several recent articles about crime, including "Legalized Abortion as an Explanation for the Decline in Crime" and "An Economic Analysis of a Drug-Selling Gang's Finances" in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, and "Winning Isn't Everything: Corruption in Sumo Wrestling," in the American Economic Review.

Levitt, who is a fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from the National Science Foundation in 2000, and the University's Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 1998.

He also is a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research and at the American Bar Foundation. He is spending the 2002-2003 academic year on leave at Stanford University.

James Heckman, a Nobel-prize winning economist at the University of Chicago and himself a recipient of the Bates Medal, said, "In a series of clever papers, Levitt has used natural variation occurring in social systems to answer important social questions. He has investigated the impact of police on crime, the effect of abortions on crime and a wide range of social phenomena using the natural experiment methodology. Social experiments are hard to perform and justify in economics. Observational data are often not conclusive in interpreting correlational data. Natural experiments use the variation sometimes produced by the social system in a fortuitous way to substitute for the social experiments that are hard to perform and justify.

"Levitt has greatly enhanced our understanding of the causes and prevention of crime and a number of other important problems using these methods. He has also investigated how teachers thwart performance evaluation systems," added Heckman, the Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor in Economics.

Gary Becker, another Nobelist at Chicago and winner of the Clark Medal, said, "Steve's research is characterized by great imagination in discovering interesting questions, ingenuity in finding data to test his hypotheses, and considerable care in carrying through the empirical discussion.

"He was responsible for the revival of an extension of economic work on crime," added Becker, University Professor in Economics. "He applied techniques he and others discovered to analyze crimes and punishments to empirical analyses of the effects and abortions on the amount of crime, to detecting corruption in schools and in athletic events, and to other interesting problems. He very much deserves the Clark Medal."

Derek Neal, Associate Professor in Economics at the University of Chicago said, "Steve's work in the economics of crime as well as work on the economics of corruption have revived interest in the profession in these topics during the last 10 years. He has produced a lot of original, creative work."

Levitt is the 28th winner of the Clark Prize. Previous winners at Chicago and when they won the prize are Milton Friedman (1951), Gary Becker (1965) at Columbia prior to joining the Chicago faculty, Zvi Griliches (1965), James Heckman (1983), and Kevin Murphy (1997).
Last modified at 03:59 PM CST on Monday, April 28, 2003.

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