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Joshua Angrist

(1960 - )

Joshua David Angrist was born on September 18, 1960, in Columbus, Ohio and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He attended Wightman School, Linden Elementary School, and Pittsburgh Allderdice. He went to the Hebrew Institute and grew up in Congregation Dor Hadash where he had his bar mitzvah. Angrist served in the Israeli Defense Forces.

Angrist attended Oberlin College, where he received his B.A. in economics in 1982. He lived in Israel from 1982 until 1985. Angrist received a M.A. and a Ph.D. in economics from Princeton University in, respectively, 1987 and 1989.

After completing his Ph.D., Angrist joined Harvard University as an assistant professor until 1991, when he returned to Israel as a senior lecturer at the Hebrew University. In 1994, he served on Israel’s Finance Ministry Working Group on Israeli-Palestinian Labor Market Relations and wrote several papers on labor conditions in the disputed territories.

After being promoted to associate professor at Hebrew University, he left for MIT’s Economics Department in 1996. "I was tired of the situation here. The Israeli system does not reflect the reality of pay differential by field. It’s the public system and it’s not very flexible,” Angrist told the Jerusalem Post in 2006.

Starting at MIT as associate professor, he was promoted to full professor in 1998. Since 2008, he has been MIT’s Ford Professor of Economics and teaches econometrics and labor economics.

Angrist is affiliated with the National Bureau of Economic Research, the IZA Institute of Labor Economics, the American Economic Association, American Statistical Association, Econometric Society, Population Association of America and the Society of Labor Economists. In terms of professional service, he has performed editorial duties at the journals Econometrica, American Economic Review, American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, Journal of Business and Economic Statistics, Economics Letters, Labour Economics and the Journal of Labor Economics.

Joshua Angrist’s research interests include the economics of education and school reform, social programs and the labor market, the effects of immigration, labor market regulation and institutions, and econometric methods for program and policy evaluation. He ranks among the top 50 out of over 56,000 economists registered on IDEAS/RePEc in terms of research output.

Economics of Education

The bulk of Angrist’s research has concentrated on the economics of education, beginning with the returns to schooling. In one early study, Angrist and Alan Krueger explored the relationship between birthdates and educational attainment due to policies and laws setting ages for school start and compulsory schooling. He also studied the impact of class size on scholastic achievement in Israeli schools, finding that class size reduction substantially increased test scores for 4th and 5th graders but not for 3rd graders. Another project found that state-mandated teacher testing raises teachers’ wages without raising their quality, and decreases teacher diversity by reducing the fraction of new teachers who are Hispanic.

Labor Economics

In one study, Angrist found that voluntary soldiers serving in the 1980s earned considerably more than comparable civilians and experienced higher employment rates thereafter. Together with Krueger, Angrist also reported that U.S. World War II veterans earned more than nonveterans, finding instead that they earned at most as much as comparable nonveterans. Angrist and John H. Johnson IV researched the effects of work-related separations during the Gulf War on military families, showing large differences between the impact of male and female soldiers’ deployment on divorce rates and spousal labor supply.

In a study of the impact of 1970 state abortion reforms on schooling and labor market outcomes, he argued that they reduced Afro-American teen fertility and thereby raised black women’s rates of high school completion, college attendance, and employment. Angrist also analyzed the consequences of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), finding a sharp drop in employment of persons with disabilities shortly after its inception. More recently, Angrist and Imbens have studied the sociological effects of mask mandates and other COVID-19 public health measures,

Besides his empirical research, Angrist has also made major contributions to econometrics, “the statistical methods economists use to untangle cause and effect in human affairs.” One of his books, Mastering ‘Metrics: The Path from Cause to Effect is described by the publisher as “An accessible and fun guide to the essential tools of econometric research.”

Honors and Awards

Angrist is a Research Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA). He is also a fellow of the Econometric Society. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2006. In 2007, Angrist received an honorary doctorate in Economics from the University of St. Gallen. He is the recipient of the 2011 John von Neumann Award given annually by the Rajk László College for Advanced Studies in Budapest. In 2018, The University of Chicago Booth School of Business awarded Angrist and Jörn-Steffen (Steve) Pischke the Fama Prize for their book, Mostly Harmless Econometrics: An Empiricist’s Companion. The prize “is awarded for Outstanding Contributions to Doctoral Education and recognizes authors of exceptional doctorate-level textbooks in economics and finance.”

In 2021, he was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics along with Guido Imbens and David Card. Card was awarded one-half the prize money and Angrist and Imbens will split the other half. The committee noted that, “Many of the big questions in the social sciences deal with cause and effect. How does immigration affect pay and employment levels? How does a longer education affect someone’s future income?” The Laureates, “have shown that it is possible to answer these and similar questions using natural experiments. The key is to use situations in which chance events or policy changes result in groups of people being treated differently, in a way that resembles clinical trials in medicine.” In addition, “Their approach has spread to other fields and revolutionized empirical research.”

Angrist holds dual US-Israeli citizenship and lives in Brookline, Massachusetts. His wife Mira is Israeli.

Sources: “Joshua Angrist,” Wikipedia.
“The Prize in Economic Sciences 2021,” Press Release, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, (October 11, 2021).
“Natural experiments help answer important questions for society,”, (October 11, 2021).
Shira Hanau, “Israeli-American Joshua Angrist shares Nobel Prize in economics,” JTA, (October 11, 2021).
Mastering ‘Metrics: The Path from Cause to Effect,” Princeton University Press, (December 21, 2014).
Nina Fox, “Nobel laureate is another victim of Israel's brain drain,” Ynet, (October 11, 2021).
“Machers & Shakers,” Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle, (October 19, 2018).

Photo: MIT Economics, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.