Press Release

Emmanuel Saez wins 2009 John Bates Clark Medal

| 29 April 2009

University of California, Berkeley, professor Emmanuel Saez, a leading scholar of tax policy and the distribution of income and wealth, is the latest recipient of the John Bates Clark Medal, awarded by the American Economics Association (AEA) to the U.S. economist under 40 making the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge.

Saez, 36, joins four other UC Berkeley economists who have received the prize. They include Dale Jorgenson in 1971, Daniel McFadden in 1975, David Card in 1995 and Matthew Rabin in 2001. McFadden, like other medal winners such as Joseph Stiglitz, Kenneth Arrow, Robert Solow and Paul Krugman, also won the Nobel Prize in economics.

In its announcement, the AEA cited Saez's contributions to the understanding of income distribution and wealth in the United States and other countries, as well as the personal and corporate behavioral responses to taxation and links between consumer behavior and retirement savings.

Saez's research brings tax theory closer to practical policy making and is rekindling academic interest in taxation, the association said in its announcement last week (April 24).

"The award is very timely as his work on income inequality - and the effects of tax cuts on the increase in inequality - have profound policy implications in the current economic crisis," said Gérard Roland, chair of UC Berkeley's Economics Department and a professor of economics and of political science. He said Saez's influence may lead to more progressive taxation for the very rich and a reversal of trends started with the presidency of conservative Ronald Reagan.

"Emmanuel's style of work is UC Berkeley economics at its best: a strong sense of policy relevance, the highest standards of rigor, and a balanced mix of theory and empirical work," Roland said.

That blend of theory and practice is particularly highlighted by UC Berkeley contributions to the workings of high levels of government. UC Berkeley economist Christina Romer is serving in Washington, D.C. as the chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, and Janet Yellen, an emeritus professor of economics at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business, is president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Laura D'Andrea Tyson, the S. K. and Angela Chan Professor of Global Management and former dean at the Haas School, is serving on the president's Economic Recovery Advisory Board. She chaired the National Economic Council from 1995 to 1996, and headed the President's Council of Economic Advisors in 1993 to 1995.

Saez said the UC Berkeley Economics Department is "a wonderful place to do research, a place where the most experienced colleagues care deeply about the research and success of younger colleagues. They are most interested in tackling important economic questions of policy relevance without being shy about questioning established economic thinking."

In addition to research and teaching, Saez serves as the editor for the Journal of Public Economics. He also is co-director of the public policy program at the London-based Center for Economic and Policy Research.

"This came as a surprise and the greatest honor I could get from the profession," Saez said about the medal. "It is most rewarding and motivating to see that my work has generated interest and recognition among colleagues and students in economics."

Just 10 years ago the native of France earned his Ph.D. in economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He earned his master's in economics at DELTA in Paris in 1996 and his bachelor's degree in mathematics at Paris's Ecole Normale Superieure. He began teaching at UC Berkeley in 2002 and is a full professor.

While he started as a mathematics student in Paris, Saez said he was concerned about social and justice issues. "Economics naturally blends mathematical and quantitative rigor to tackle these issues," he said.

The full text of the AEA's award announcement is online at www.vanderbilt.edu/AEA.