Becker, Gary S(tanley) 1930-

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BECKER, Gary S(tanley) 1930-

PERSONAL: Born December 2, 1930, in Pottsville, PA; son of Louis W. and Anna (Siskind) Becker; married Doria Slote, 1955 (deceased); married Guity Nashat, 1979; children: (first marriage) Judith Sarah, Catherine Jean; two stepsons. Education: Princeton University, A.B. (summa cum laude), 1951; University of Chicago, A.M., 1953, Ph.D., 1955.

ADDRESSES: Home—1308 East 58th St., Chicago, IL 60637. Office—University of Chicago, Department of Economics, 1126 East 59th St., Chicago, IL 60637. E-mail—[email protected].

CAREER: University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, assistant professor of economics, 1954-57, visiting professor, 1969-70, university professor of economics, 1970-83, professor of economics and sociology, 1983—, chair of economic department, 1984-84; Columbia University, New York, NY, assistant professor, 1957-58, associate professor, 1958-60, professor of economics, 1960-68, Arthur Lehman Professor of Economics, 1968-69; Research associate, Economics Research Center and National Opinion Research Center, 1980—.

MEMBER: Union Internationale pour l'Etude Scientifique de la Population, National Academy of Sciences, American Economic Association (president, 1987), American Philosophical Society, American Statistical Association, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, National Academy of Education, Econometric Society, Mont Pelerin Society (director, 1985—, president, 1990-92), Phi Beta Kappa.

AWARDS, HONORS: W. S. Woytinsky Award, University of Michigan, 1964, for Human Capital; John Bates Clark Medal from American Economic Association, 1967; professional achievement award, University of Chicago Alumni Association, 1968; Frank E. Seidman Distinguished Award in Political Economics, 1985; Merit Award from the National Institutes of Health, 1986; John R. Commons Award, and Nobel Prize in Economics, 1992. Honorary degrees from several institutions, including Hebrew University, Knox College, University of Illinois, State University of New York, and Princeton University.


Economics of Discrimination, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1957, 2nd edition, 1971.

Human Capital: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis with Special Reference to Education, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1964, 2nd edition, 1975.

Human Capital and the Personal Distribution of Income: An Analytical Approach, University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI), 1967.

Economic Theory, Knopf (New York, NY), 1971.

(Editor, with William M. Landes) Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1974.

(With Gilbert Ghez) The Allocation of Time and Goods over the Life Cycle, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1975.

The Economic Approach to Human Behavior, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1976.

A Treatise on the Family, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1981.

(Contributor) Discrimination, Affirmative Action, and Equal Opportunity: An Economic and Social Perspective, coedited by W. E. Block and M. A. Walker, Fraser Institute (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 1982.

(With Nigel Tomes) Human Capital and the Rise and Fall of Families, University of Western Ontario (London, ON), 1985.

An Economic Analysis of the Family, Economic and Social Research Institute (Dublin, Ireland), 1986.

The Essence of Becker, edited and with an introduction by Ramon Febrero and Pedro S. Schwartz, foreword by John Raisian, Hoover Institution (Stanford, CA), 1995.

The Economic Way of Looking at Behavior: The Nobel Lecture, Stanford University (Stanford, CA), 1996.

Accounting for Tastes, Harvard University (Cambridge, MA), 1996.

(With Guity Nashat Becker) The Economics of Life: From Baseball to Affirmative Action to Immigration, How Real-World Issues Affect Our Everyday Life, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1997.

(With Kevin M. Murphy) Social Economics: Market Behavior in a Social Environment, Belknap Press (Cambridge, MA), 2000.

Also editor of Essays in Labor Economics in Honor of H. Gregg Lewis, 1976; contributor of columns to Business Week.

SIDELIGHTS: Gary S. Becker is one of the most respected economists of the famous Chicago school. Mentored by Milton Friedman, Becker helped move the study of economics into territory previously unexplored with his many books about subjects such as racial discrimination, crime, and the family unit. This body of work garnered Becker the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1992.

Becker recalled some of his pioneering research for a Web site on Nobel Prize winners. Speaking of his first book, 1957's Economics of Discrimination, he explained: "The book contains the first systematic effort to use economic theory to analyze the effects of prejudice on the earnings, employment, and occupations of minorities.... [It] was very favorably reviewed in a few major journals, but for several years it had no visible impact on anything." Becker added that "most economists did not think racial discrimination was economics, and sociologists and psychologists generally did not believe I was contributing to their fields." By 1983, however, Becker's wide-ranging interests were acknowleged when the University of Chicago made him a professor of both economics and sociology.

In 1996 Becker published Accounting for Tastes, a collection of several of the economist's essays, "including his Nobel lecture," reported Edward J. Smith in Business Economics. As Smith explained, "Becker's thesis is that basic consumption needs, such as food and shelter, have relatively minor importance in the developed world." Instead, Smith continued, "most consumption is unrelated to these basic needs and is profoundly influenced by factors not normally considered in economic models." The factors cited by Becker include peer-group influence and cultural upbringing. Smith felt that each essay in Accounting for Tastes is "lucid" and "thought-provoking." Even reviewers who disagreed with Becker's political viewpoint complimented his work. Journal of Economic Issues, reviewer Wilfred Dolfsman, for instance, concluded that "Becker has helped us to better formulate our own ideas."

Becker collaborated with his second wife, history professor Guity Nashat Becker, on 1997's The Economics of Life: From Baseball to Affirmative Action to Immigration, How Real-World Issues Affect Our Everyday Life. In this volume, the Beckers advocate such controversial social solutions as drug legalization, the auction of immigration slots to the highest bidder, and school vouchers.

Becker collaborated with colleague Kevin M. Murphy on the 2000 publication, Social Economics: Market Behavior in a Social Environment. According Times Literary Suppplement, reviewer David Throsby, "Becker and Murphy analyse the implications of the extended model of rational choice for decisions such as whom to marry, where to live and whether or not to collect art." Throsby went on to praise Social Economics because he felt it "marks another step in bringing economic theory closer to social reality."



Blaug, Mark, Great Economists since Keynes, Barnes & Noble (Totowa, NJ).


American Journal of Sociology, September, 1983, review of A Treatise on the Family, p. 468.

Business Economics, October, 1997, Edward J. Smith, review of Accounting for Tastes, pp. 72-73.

Choice, April, 1982, review of A Treatise on the Family, p. 1100.

Contemporary Sociology, March, 1993, Debra Friedman, review of A Treatise on the Family, p. 225.

Journal of Economic Issues, September, 1997, Wilfred Dolfsman, review of Accounting for Tastes, p. 854.

Journal of Economic Literature, March, 1982, review of A Treatise on the Family, pp. 52, 65; December, 1994, p. 1990; September, 1996, review of The Essense of Becker, p. 1444; March, 1997, review of Accounting for Tastes, p. 199; December, 1998, review of The Economics of Life: From Baseball to Affirmative Action to Immigration, How Real-World Issues Affect Our Everyday Life, p. 2204; September, 2001, review of Social Economics: Market Behavior in a Social Environment, p. 1054.

Journal of Economic Perspectives, spring, 1994, Victor R. Fuchs, p. 183.

Journal of Economic Studies, June, 1992, Stephen P. Jenkins, review of A Treatise on the Family, p. 666.

Population and Development Review, September, 1992, review of A Treatise on the Family, p. 563.

Reference and Research Book News, July, 1996, review of The Essence of Becker, p. 28.

Review of Black Political Economy, spring, 1984, Marcus Alex, p. 41.

Social Forces, June, 1997, Eric M. Leifer, review of Accounting for Tastes, p. 1463.

Times Literary Supplement, March 22, 2002, David Throsby, "Humans Can Apply," p. 28.

University of Chicago Law Review, spring, 1997, Jon Elster, review of Accounting for Tastes, pp. 749-764.


Nobel E-Museum, (July 29, 2002) "Gary S. Becker."*

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Becker, Gary S(tanley) 1930-

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