Natural experiments in labour economics and beyond: The 2021 Nobel laureates David Card, Joshua Angrist, and Guido Imbens

From a VoxEU post by Jörn-Steffen Pischke:

The 2021 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences has been awarded to David Card of the University of California, Berkeley, “for his empirical contributions to labour economics”, and to Joshua Angrist of MIT and Guido Imbens of Stanford University “for their methodological contributions to the analysis of causal relationships”. This column explains how the use of natural experiments in empirical economics has ushered in much progress in the analysis of causal relationships. The ensuing ‘credibility revolution’ over the past three decades has been transformational for the study of key policy challenges, including education, immigration and the minimum wage.

I once, naively, asked the late Alan Krueger about the pioneers of natural experiments in economics. His somewhat sheepish answer was that that’s like asking about the pioneers of rock music. It didn’t take much research on my part to reveal the numerous protagonists of a movement in labour economics in the 1980s and 1990s that transformed the way empirical work is done in the field and in many areas of economics beyond. Yet, like rock music, natural experiments have their Fab Four, and they are the 2021 Nobel laureates David Card, Joshua Angrist and Guido Imbens, plus the late Alan Krueger. I hope many will agree with me that this prize honours Krueger as well.

The important questions in economics are causal questions. How does immigration affect the labour market prospects of natives? What is the payoff to an additional year spent in school or to attending university? What are the effects of minimum wages on the employment prospects of low-skilled workers? But these questions are difficult to answer because we lack the right counterfactuals.”

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Posted by at 7:40 AM

Labels: Profiles of Economists


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