Gary S. Becker

Awards and Honors:
American Academy of Arts and Sciences
American Philosophical Society
Econometric Society (elected fellow)
National Academy of Education
National Academy of Sciences

Gary S. Becker passed away on May 3, 2014. He won the Nobel Memorial Prize for Economic Science in 1992, and was the Rose-Marie and Jack R. Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and University Professor of Economics and Sociology at the University of Chicago.

Becker is recognized for his expertise in human capital, economics of the family, and economic analysis of crime, discrimination, and population.

His research focused on habits and addictions, formation of preferences, human capital, and population growth.

Becker wrote commentary for The Becker-Posner Blog. He served as an economic policy adviser for the Dole presidential campaign in 1996. He received the National Medal of Science in 2000 for his work in social policy and was the 2004 recipient of the Jacob Mincer Prize for lifetime achievement in the field of labor economics.

Becker's publications include Uncommon Sense: Economic Insights, from Marriage to Terrorism (2009) coauthored with Richard Posner, and (with Guity Nashat) The Economics of Life (McGraw Hill, 1997) and Accounting for Tastes (Harvard University Press, 1996). He is the author of numerous other books, including the seminal work Human Capital (Columbia University Press, 1964; 3rd edition, 1993), which was awarded the prestigious W.S.Woytinskty Award in 1964.

In addition to being a Nobel laureate, Becker was a recipient of the 2007 Presidential Medal of Freedom.

He held honorary degrees from a dozen universities, including Hebrew University in Jerusalem (doctor philosophae honoris causa), Knox College, Illinois (doctor of laws), Princeton University (doctor of humane letters), Columbia University (doctor of humane letters), and the University of Illinois at Chicago (doctor of arts).

Becker was a professor at the University of Chicago from 1954 to 1957 and at Columbia University from 1957 to 1968. In 1968–1969 he was a Ford Foundation visiting professor of economics at the University of Chicago before joining the Department of Economics there in 1970.

Becker received an AB (summa cum laude) from Princeton University in 1951, an AM from the University of Chicago in 1952, and a PhD from the University of Chicago in 1955.

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Recent Commentary

Analysis and Commentary

Is Student Debt Too Great?

by Gary S. Beckervia Becker-Posner Blog
Monday, May 28, 2012

I find it difficult to comprehend why sizable mortgages are accepted while there are political and media outcries over comparable student loans that are based on usually highly productive investments in human capital...

Analysis and Commentary

Should Greece Exit the Euro Zone?

by Gary S. Beckervia Becker-Posner Blog
Sunday, May 20, 2012

Countries run balance of payments deficits when their tradable goods are expensive on world markets because their producers are not sufficiently cost effective...

Analysis and Commentary

On Homosexual Marriage

by Gary S. Beckervia Becker-Posner Blog
Sunday, May 13, 2012

The ideal solution would make all “marriages” contractual civil unions that would specify the rights of both parties. Every couple, including gay couples, would then be allowed to call their arrangement a marriage...

Analysis and Commentary

Why has the Recovery in Employment in the US been so Slow?

by Gary S. Beckervia Becker-Posner Blog
Sunday, May 6, 2012

No single factor explains this slowness, but a combination of several explains most of the slow recovery...

Analysis and Commentary

Are the Incentives of Colleges Aligned With Social Welfare?

by Gary S. Beckervia Becker-Posner Blog
Sunday, April 29, 2012

American universities are pretty successful in producing higher education that contributes effectively to social welfare, given the public policies that impinge on their behavior...

Analysis and Commentary

Concern About The Decline in Manufacturing in the United States?

by Gary S. Beckervia Becker-Posner Blog
Sunday, April 22, 2012

Manufacturing employment as a fraction of total employment has been declining for the past half century in the United States and the great majority of other developed countries...

Restrictions on Campaign Contributions—A Good Thing?

by Gary S. Beckervia Advancing a Free Society
Sunday, April 8, 2012

Posner is clearly correct that the analytical differences between “super Pacs” and direct campaign contributions to candidates are not large enough to justify disparate treatments.

Analysis and Commentary

Restrictions on Campaign Contributions

by Gary S. Beckervia Becker-Posner Blog
Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sharp restrictions on campaign contributions would make more sense if monetary contributions were the only major force that shapes who wins elections and the policies government officials support...

Are Too Many People in Prison?

by Gary S. Beckervia Advancing a Free Society
Saturday, April 7, 2012

Does imprisonment reduce crime? Yes.

Do many crimes cause considerable harm and hardships to victims? Yes.

Does America imprison too many people? In light of my answers so far, you might expect my response to this question to be no. But it is a strong yes.

Are Too Many People in Prison?

by Gary S. Beckervia Hoover Digest
Friday, April 6, 2012

Putting lawbreakers behind bars is one way to cut crime, but it’s hardly the only way. Why we need to consider a different approach. By Gary S. Becker.