Nobel Prize in Economics: David Card, Joshua Angrist, and Guido Imbens Share the 2021 Award

11 October, 2021

The 2021 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel was divided, with one half awarded to David Card "for his empirical contributions to labour economics", and the other half awarded jointly to Joshua D. Angrist and Guido W. Imbens "for their methodological contributions to the analysis of causal relationships."

"This year's Laureates have provided us with new insights about the labor market and shown what conclusions about cause and effect can be drawn from natural experiments. Their approach has spread to other fields and revolutionized empirical research," the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced.


Jan Švejnar explained "the three winners are among the best empirical economists. Their major contribution lies in tackling successfully a fundamental question in science and social science in particular: causality. What is causing what? We observe many associations, but to establish whether they are causal or just non-causal associations is the fundamental question. These three economists, using primarily natural experiments, have made major contributions ranging methodology to empirical studies. In doing so, they have advanced our capability to make causal inferences and come up with findings that are very relevant for public policy. In sum, their work is important in terms of both social science and its applications to public policy."

Štěpán Jurajda commented that "the credibility revolution, which is celebrated by this year's Nobel prize, affects every field of economic research, not just labor economics, where it started. Furthermore, one can see the main actors in the revolution interacting with CERGE-EI in several ways. Orley Ashenfelter, who was active in the start of the difference-in-differences method that was an early stage in the revolution, served on our supervisory board in the 1990s. In 2006, David Card was the keynote speaker at the annual conference of the European Association of Labour Economists, which Daniel Münich and I helped organize at CERGE-EI. A year earlier, Josh Angrist was one of the evaluators of the New York State Education Department committee, which awarded the permanent charter to CERGE-EI's education programs. David Card was also closely collaborating in his research with Alan Krueger, who served on CERGE-EI's supervisory board before passing away in 2019.  Most importantly, the work of the Nobel laureates affects the research of many of my colleagues at CERGE-EI and features in our classrooms."

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The news also brought with it some sadness in remembering Alan Krueger, CERGE-EI's Executive and Supervisory Committee member in memoriam, and his contributions to the work cited in the 2021 Nobel in economics. The Committee for the Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel writes in the document Scientific Background on the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2021: "Another central researcher was Alan Krueger, who passed away in 2019; among other things, he co-authored a number of the early key studies with Card. Angrist contributed to the early literature as well, in part with a paper co-authored with Krueger."

CERGE-EI's researchers perceive the award as an acknowledgment of the scientific contribution of Alan Krueger. Jakub Steiner explains that " David Card and Alan Krueger co-authored the article which the Nobel Committee emphasized during the awards ceremony. Alan would probably receive the award as well this year, had he not died tragically in 2019. Alan had been a long-term member of CERGE-EI's Executive and Supervisory Committee and contributed to CERGE-EI's success. It is great that Alan's research was indirectly acknowledged this year."

Filip Pertold, who completed a research stay with David Card, added "all the laureates are extremely important to the so-called credibility revolution in economics. Their empirical work is based on naturally occurring experiments such as changes in the minimum wage or sudden increases in migration flows, and leads to science-based recommendations for policymakers. David Card specifically works in many fields that include migration, minimum wage, wage bargaining, gender differences, and many other topics related to labor markets."

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The prize, always the last of the six Nobel Prizes to be awarded, was established by Sweden's central bank (Sveriges Riksbank) in memory of Nobel prize founder Alfred Nobel. The first prize was awarded in 1969.