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


Stock Buybacks Are the Wrong Target

by Michael Spencevia Project Syndicate
Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Legislation banning companies from purchasing their own shares, or conditioning buybacks on investment in workers, would not significantly alter the distribution of wealth. What it would do is undermine the broad cooperation needed to tackle income inequality and a fast-changing labor environment.

In the News

Teaching Digital Subjects Alone Won't Close The Skills Gap

quoting Michael Spencevia Forbes
Monday, February 18, 2019

A British MP talked about something other than Brexit the other week. Conservative MP Robert Halfon was speaking up for children’s education and how he wanted to smash up the current exam system to give young people better skills for their future working lives.

In the News

Lessons For India: How Alibaba Uses Tech To Give Employment To Unskilled Villagers

quoting Michael Spencevia Financial Express
Monday, January 28, 2019

Alibaba -- the Chinese e-commerce giant -- helps people learn relevant job skills at work so that even those who don't possess formal education could be employed.

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The China Syndrome

by Michael Spencevia Hoover Digest
Friday, January 25, 2019

No matter how the trade tensions between the United States and China finally play out, don’t expect a return to any orderly status quo.


What Next For China’s Development Model?

by Michael Spencevia Project Syndicate
Monday, January 21, 2019

Even if China maintains its market-oriented reform momentum, tensions with the West are unlikely to be resolved quickly. While steps can be taken to reduce these tensions, they cannot be easily eliminated, which means that they will probably be a key factor shaping the future of China’s development model.

Analysis and Commentary

How Inequality Undermines Economic Performance

by Michael Spencevia Project Syndicate
Wednesday, December 26, 2018

France's Yellow Vest protests are rooted in frustration with the government’s indifference to the plight of struggling households outside France’s urban centers. With job and income polarization having increased across all developed economies in recent decades, developments in France should serve as a wake-up call to others.


The Digital Key To Inclusive Growth

by Chen Long, Michael Spencevia Project Syndicate
Thursday, November 29, 2018

So far, it seems that the rise of the digital economy has already contributed to a broad pattern of income and job polarization in the developed world. Yet digital technology can play a powerful role in fostering inclusive growth patterns, especially in developing economies.


The Long Sino-American Trade War

by Michael Spencevia Project Syndicate
Thursday, October 25, 2018

If governments are going to engage in trade wars, they should have a clear and pragmatic vision of where they want to end up. 


The Restructuring Of The World

by Michael Spencevia Project Syndicate
Thursday, September 27, 2018

Trade protectionism, together with fears over the national-security implications of technological development, are contributing to a balkanization of the world order. This is not good news for the United States as it faces an intensifying rivalry with an increasingly powerful China.


Emerging Vulnerabilities In Emerging Economies

by Michael Spencevia Project Syndicate
Friday, August 24, 2018

For many emerging economies, it is imperative to pursue a rebalancing of growth patterns, with a more active approach to managing debt and capital flows and their effects on asset prices, exchange rates, and growth. Otherwise, the dangers of unsustainable growth patterns will bring expansion to an abrupt halt.