Edited by Ross B. Emmett
Chapter 1: Gary S. Becker
Pedro Nuno Teixeira Despite becoming one of the most influential economists of the second half of the twentieth century, Gary Becker (1930–) was not immediately destined to study economics. In his first year in Princeton he accidentally took a course in economics, which attracted him by the combination of mathematical rigor and matters of social organization. He started to lose interest in economics when approaching the end of his studies, because it dealt less than he expected with relevant social problems; he even considered a change to sociology. Eventually, he decided to pursue graduate studies in economics at Chicago, which proved to be a turning point in his career (Becker 1993). Milton Friedman and the price theory course, Gregg Lewis and the analysis of labor markets using standard economic theory, and T.W. Schultz and the notion of human capital were three clear Chicago influences on Becker’s developing research interests. All three increased his confidence in using economics to deal with relevant social issues. After finishing his PhD in 1955, Becker started his academic career at Chicago. However, despite enjoying the academic environment there, the will to test new academic environments, and the attraction of working at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), made him decide to move to New York in 1957. There he worked at Columbia University, where throughout the 1960s he developed one of his most important personal and academic partnerships, with Jacob Mincer through the Labor Workshop. Becker’s activity at the NBER was also significant, because...
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