James Heckman


James J. Heckman has devoted his professional life to understanding the origins of major social and economic problems related to inequality, social mobility, discrimination, skill formation and regulation, and to devising and evaluating alternative strategies for addressing those problems. His work is rooted in economics, but he actively collaborates across disciplines to get to the heart of major problems. His recent interdisciplinary research on human development and skill formation over the life cycle draws on economics, psychology, genetics, epidemiology, and neuroscience to examine the origins of inequality, the determinants of social mobility, and the links among stages of the life cycle, starting in the womb.

Heckman has a BA (1965) in Mathematics from Colorado College and an MA (1968) and PhD (1971) in Economics from Princeton University. He has been at the Department of Economics at the University of Chicago since 1973. He was one of the founders of the Harris School of Public Policy, where he also has an appointment. Since 1991, he has been a research fellow at the American Bar Foundation and also holds an appointment at the Law School at the University of Chicago. In May, 2014, he launched the Center for the Economics of Human Development at the University of Chicago which he directs.

In 2000, Heckman shared the Nobel Prize in Economics for his work on the microeconometrics of diversity and heterogeneity and for establishing a sound causal basis for public policy evaluation. He has received numerous other awards for his work, including the John Bates Clark Medal of the American Economic Association in 1983, the Jacob Mincer Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2005 from the Society of Labor Economics, the 2005 and 2007 Dennis Aigner Award for Applied Econometrics from the Journal of Econometrics, the Ulysses Medal from the University College Dublin in 2006, the 2007 Theodore W. Schultz Award from the American Agricultural Economics Association, the Gold Medal of the President of the Italian Republic, awarded by the International Scientific Committee of the Pio Manzú Centre in 2008, the Distinguished Contributions to Public Policy for Children Award from the Society for Research in Child Development in 2009, and the Frisch Medal from the Econometric Society in 2014 for the most outstanding paper in applied economics published in Econometrica in the previous five years. He is a recent recipient of a NIH MERIT award.

He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, USA; a member of the American Philosophical Society; a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; the American Association for the Advancement of Science; the Econometric Society; the Society of Labor Economics; the American Statistical Association; the International Statistical Institute; and the National Academy of Education. He has received numerous honorary degrees, most recently from University College London in 2013, and is a foreign member of Academica Sinica and the Brazilian Academy of Sciences.

He is currently co-editor of the Journal of Political Economy. He has published over 300 articles and 9 books. His most recent book is The Myth of Achievement Tests: The GED and the Role of Character in American Life (University of Chicago Press, 2014). He is actively engaged in conducting and guiding empirical and theoretical research on skill development, inequality, and social mobility.


By this expert

Publishing and Promotion in Economics: The Tyranny of the Top Five

Paper Working Paper Series | | Oct 2018

This paper examines the relationship between placement of publications in Top Five (T5) journals and receipt of tenure in academic economics departments.

The Tyranny of the Top Five Journals

Article | Oct 2, 2018

Getting published in a top five economics journal is a near-requirement for tenure. But it’s a poor measure of research quality within a system that punishes creativity.

Three Questions with Dean Corbae

Article | Apr 19, 2016

Dean Corbae is a leader of the Markets network and Professor of Finance, Investment, and Banking at the Wisconsin School of Business, where he also holds an appointment in the Department of Economics. His current research focuses on consumer credit and bankruptcy, foreclosures, and banking industry dynamics.

Three Questions with John Eric Humphries

Article | Apr 7, 2016

John Eric Humphries is a member of the Inequality: Measurement, Interpretation, and Policy (MIP) network and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow in the Department of Economics at the University of Chicago. He is the co-author of the book, The Myth of Achievement Tests, The GED and the Role of Character in American Life, along with James J. Heckman and Tim Kautz. Humphries is also a 2013 alum of the Summer School on Socieconomic Inequality.

Featuring this expert

Young Scholars Initiative Early Career Days

Event Conference | Nov 18–20, 2021

publishing • the job market • writing • teaching • mental health • work-life balance

INET funded research was cited in the American Families Plan

News Apr 28, 2021

“A study by Nobel Laureate James Heckman found that every dollar invested in a high-quality, birth to five program for the most economically disadvantaged children resulted in $7.30 in benefits as children grew up healthier, were more likely to graduate high school and college, were less likely to be involved in crime, and earned more as adults.” — The White House

James Heckman in The Economist

News Oct 6, 2018

Nobel laureate James Heckman, Sidharth Moktan and their INET-funded research on economics journals is featured in The Economist.

James Heckman in The Chronicle of Higher Education

News Oct 1, 2018

Nobel laureate James Heckman, Sidharth Moktan and their INET-funded research on economics journals is featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education.