Michael Spence

Senior Fellow
Awards and Honors:
American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Econometric Society (elected fellow)

Michael Spence is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, a professor of economics at the Stern School at New York University, and the Philip H. Knight Professor Emeritus of Management in the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University.

Spence’s latest publication is The Next Convergence: The Future of Economic Growth in a Multispeed World (2011).

He served as the chairman of the independent Commission on Growth and Development (2006–10).

He was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2001 and the John Bates Clark Medal from the American Economic Association in 1981. He was awarded the David A. Wells Prize for the outstanding doctoral dissertation at Harvard University and the John Kenneth Galbraith Prize for excellence in teaching.

He served as the Philip H. Knight Professor and dean of the Stanford Business School (1990–99). As dean, he oversaw the finances, organization, and educational policies of the school. He taught at Stanford as an associate professor of economics from 1973 to 1975.

He served as a professor of economics and business administration at Harvard University (1975–90). In 1983, he was named chairman of the Economics Department and the George Gund Professor of Economics and Business Administration. Spence also served as the dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard (1984–90), overseeing Harvard College, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and the Division of Continuing Education.

From 1977 to 1979, he was a member of the Economics Advisory Panel of the National Science Foundation and in 1979 served as a member of the Sloan Foundation Economics Advisory Committee. He has served as a member of the editorial boards of the American Economics Review, Bell Journal of Economics, and Journal of Economic Theory.

Spence is a member of the boards of directors for General Mills and a number of private companies. He was chairman of the National Research Council Board on Science, Technology and Economic Policy (1991–97).

He is a member of the American Economic Association and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Econometric Society.

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Recent Commentary

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The Third Wave Of The Pandemic

by Michael Spence, Chen Longvia Project Syndicate
Thursday, July 2, 2020

During the first waves of the COVID-19 pandemic in Asia and Western advanced economies, there was a clear pattern of lockdown, containment, and gradual economic reopening. But now a third pandemic wave has brought a new, more disturbing pattern to both developing countries and major US states.

In the News

Pandenomics: How Open Data Is Guiding Public Policy

quoting Michael Spencevia Technology Review (MIT)
Thursday, June 25, 2020

Generals always fight the last war, runs the military aphorism. Politicians have also drawn heavily from battlefield lexicon in framing the fight against covid-19, but they too are at risk of leaning on outdated concepts and responses based on past crises that bear limited resemblance to the pandemic.

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Graphing The Pandemic Economy

by Michael Spence, Chen Longvia Project Syndicate
Monday, June 1, 2020

In a fast-evolving crisis like a pandemic, GDP and other conventional economic metrics are simply too slow to be useful for policymakers who need to make decisions about when to lock down and reopen parts of the economy. Fortunately, real-time mobility data has opened a window into the world that COVID-19 has wrought.


Nobel Laureate Michael Spence: Be Prepared For Very Slow Economic Recoveries

interview with Michael Spencevia Bloomberg
Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Hoover Institution fellow Michael Spence says there are “uncomfortable choices being made” as he discusses the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

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COVID-19 And The Trust Deficit

by Michael Spence, David Bradyvia Project Syndicate
Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Years of polling in the United States and Europe show that public confidence in institutions has been falling, fueling partisan polarization and political paralysis. But now that the COVID-19 pandemic has left us with no choice but to rely on our institutions, the question of whether trust can be restored has become paramount.

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The Priority For The Social-Distancing Period

by Michael Spencevia Project Syndicate
Wednesday, April 1, 2020

With COVID-19 quickly spreading around the world, much of the attention has correctly centered on the need for social distancing to slow transmission of the virus. But limiting human interactions should be regarded as merely the first step in a more comprehensive targeted strategy.

Analysis and Commentary

How The Economy Differs For Workers, Consumers And Savers

by James Manyika, Michael Spencevia Business Mirror
Tuesday, March 10, 2020

While the economic gains for many people in advanced economies are significant in some respects, in others they have been eroded by unexpected challenges. We examined a range of economic indicators, such as employment and wage growth, benefits, prices for basic and discretionary goods and services, and savings for retirement, and found that outcomes for individuals in three roles—workers, consumers and savers—present a more nuanced picture than the aggregate data might suggest.


Can China’s Economy Withstand The Coronavirus?

by Michael Spencevia Project Syndicate
Saturday, February 29, 2020

The COVID-19 epidemic’s tail risks are significant and frightening, but as of now, they do not seem particularly likely to materialize. Instead, the outbreak’s economic consequences will probably be substantial but transitory.


The Challenging Arithmetic Of Climate Action

by Michael Spencevia Project Syndicate
Wednesday, February 12, 2020

All strategies to mitigate climate change have distributive implications that cannot be overlooked. If left unaddressed, such implications will fuel persistent headwinds to progress on the climate change and sustainability agenda.

Analysis and CommentaryEconomy

What My Younger Self Never Expected

by Michael Spencevia Project Syndicate
Friday, January 3, 2020

At the start of a new year and a new decade, it is both humbling and illuminating to reflect on major global developments that no one saw coming just a few decades ago. For those who grew up during the Cold War or in the ensuing period of American primacy, the economic and geopolitical rise of the developing world must rank high on the list.