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A University of Chicago professor received the top award for young economists last Friday, beating out two Harvard professors who were widely considered possible candidates for the medal.
Although the American Economic Association (AEA) does not announce finalists for the John Bates Clark Medal, the Wall Street Journal wrote last Friday that many observers considered Professors of Economics Edward L. Glaeser and R. Michael Kremer examples of top young professors in the field who might receive the medal.
The award is given every other year to an economist under the age of 40 for excellent contributions to the field.
Glaeser has most recently researched the economy of hatred, studying the situation of blacks in the United States in the late 1800s, Jews in Nazi Germany and anti-American sentiments in the Middle East during recent decades. He has concluded that “hatred is not innate, but is rather a creation of particular political actors who face incentives to build hatred.”
Glaeser said his findings could have “big implications” for U.S. foreign policy in Iraq.
The AEA chose University of Chicago professor Steven D. Levitt for the medal. He is best known for his study of crime and, more recently, a controversial paper linking America’s decreasing crime rates in the 1990s to the legalization of abortion.
Past winners of the Bates medal have later gone on to win the Nobel prize or to receive high-profile policy jobs. Bates Medal winner University President Lawrence H. Summers became secretary of the Treasury in 1999.
But some said that the 35-year-old Glaeser still has a significant chance of winning the Bates award in the near future.
“He’s a great economist and has made a lot of important contributions to the profession,” said Jesse M. Shapiro ’01, an economics graduate student who has worked with Glaeser on his research for the past five years.
Glaeser’s price theory model, which defines hatred as “the willingness to sacrifice personally to harm others,” suggests that the supply of hatred is determined by the possible political gains from inciting hatred, while the demand of hatred is reflected by the desire or willingness of the population to listen to hateful rhetoric.
Glaeser said his research shows that political actors often use exaggerated or false accusations to incite hatred to their benefit.
An example of this, Glaeser said, is the Nazis’ claim that Jewish people were responsible for Germany’s loss in World War I.
“It’s a mistake to think that hatred automatically follows from guilt or that it is eliminated by innocence,” he said. “What matters is the internal political equilibrium of the country.”
Political systems which tolerate or encourage extreme views foster hatred, according to Glaeser.
His research also suggests that hatred is less likely to spread when distinct groups are in daily contact with each other because such groups often rely on each other emotionally and economically.
Glaeser said that the U.S. should advocate “limiting policy space” in Iraq to discourage extreme views, and support both the eventual group in power and rival political groups so that hating the U.S. would not be advantageous for Iraqis.
“I don’t think it’s a necessity that, just because we’ve bombed a lot in Iraq, they’re going to hate us,” he said.
Kremer’s research focuses on illness, education and other problems facing the developing world. He has recently studied the debt of regimes which do not use the foreign aid they receive for the benefit of their country’s population.
Kremer was not available for an interview, but wrote in an e-mail that he admires Levitt’s work.
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