James Heckman

James Heckman bigraphy, stories - American economist

James Heckman : biography

19 April 1944 –

James Joseph Heckman (born 19 April 1944) is an American economist and Nobel laureate. He is the Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, Professor of Science and Society at University College Dublin and a Senior Research Fellow at the American Bar Foundation.

Heckman shared the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 2000 with Daniel McFadden for his pioneering work in econometrics and microeconomics. He is considered to be among the ten most influential economists in the world.


Early years

Heckman was born to John Jacob Heckman and Bernice Irene Medley in Chicago, Illinois. Heckman received his B.A. in mathematics from Colorado College, and received his Ph.D. from Princeton University in economics in 1971. Heckman then served as an Assistant Professor at Columbia University before moving to the University of Chicago in 1973. In addition to serving as the Henry B. Schultz Distinguished Service Professor of Economics, Heckman is also the director of the Economics Research Center and the Center for Social Program Evaluation at the Irving B. Harris School of Public Policy. In 2004, he was appointed as the Distinguished Chair of Microeconometrics at University College London. In June 2006 he was appointed as the Professor of Science and Society at University College Dublin.. Heckman is also a senior research fellow at the American Bar Foundation.


Heckman is noted for his contributions to selection bias and self-selection analysis especially Heckman correction, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics. He is also well known for his empirical research in labor economics, particularly regarding the efficacy of early childhood education programs.

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 developed a body of new econometric tools that address these issues. 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. He demonstrated a strong causal effect of the 1964 Civil Rights Act in promoting African-American economic progress. He has recently demonstrated that the high school dropout rate is increasing in the U.S. He has studied the economic benefits of sorting in the labor market, the ineffectiveness of active labor market programs, and the economic returns to education. His recent research focuses on inequality, 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. He is also studying the emergence of the underclass in the U.S. and Western Europe.

In the early 1990s, his pioneering research on the outcomes of people who obtain the GED certificate received national attention.

His recent research focuses on human development and lifecycle skill formation, with a special emphasis on the economics of early childhood education.

Heckman has published over 270 articles and several books. His books include Inequality in America: What Role for Human Capital Policy? (with Alan Krueger); Evaluating Human Capital Policy, Law, and Employment: Lessons from Latin America and the Caribbean (with Carmen Pages); the Handbook of Econometrics, volumes 5, 6A, and 6B (edited with Edward Leamer); and Global Perspectives on the Rule of Law, (edited with R. Nelson and L. Cabatingan). New York: Routledge, 2010.


Heckman has received numerous awards for his work, including the John Bates Clark Medal of the American Economic Association in 1983, the 2005 and 2007 Dennis Aigner Award for Applied Econometrics from the Journal of Econometrics, the 2005 Jacob Mincer Award for Lifetime Achievement in Labor Economics, the 2005 Ulysses Medal from the University College Dublin, 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, and the Distinguished Contributions to Public Policy for Children Award from the Society for Research in Child Development in 2009. 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 USA; a member of the American Philosophical Society; a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; the Econometric Society (of which he is also president-elect); the Society of Labor Economics; the American Statistical Association; and the International Statistical Institute.

Personal life

Heckman is married to sociologist Lynne Pettler-Heckman, with whom he has two children; son Jonathan (b. 1982), a physicist, and daughter Alma (b. 1986), a Fulbright scholar.

His son, Jonathan Heckman, was married to Darlyn Pirakitikulr in 2009.[https://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/16/fashion/weddings/16pirakitikulr.html Darlyn Pirakitikulr and Jonathan Heckman, New York Times, August 15, 2009]