Economist with focus on inequality receives new Swedish prize in economics and management
Professor Marianne Bertrand at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business is the first recipient of the Jan Söderberg Family Prize in Economics and Management. Professor Bertrand will receive the prize and hold a lecture on 12 March in Lund, Sweden.
“Marianne Bertrand is one of the world’s most prominent applied micro-economists,” says Fredrik Andersson, dean at Lund University School of Economics and Management, as well as chair of the prize committee.
“We see her work as an inspiration for researchers in both economics and management. Her focus on issues such as inequality and discrimination also align well with our core research agenda. It really is a pleasure for everyone involved to announce that Marianne Bertrand is the recipient of the first Jan Söderberg Family Prize in Economics and Management,” he continues.
The prize is made possible by the generous donation of SEK 1 million annually, for three years, from entrepreneur Jan Söderberg and his family.
Marianne Bertrand is a professor in economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Her research interests cover the fields of economics, labour, development, corporate finance, political economy and psychology.
“I find it most interesting to push the boundaries of economics. I am convinced that satisfactory answers to many of the questions that interest me cannot be provided by solely looking at market incentives or restricting the human decision-making process to strict rationality assumptions. For example, it is difficult to fully understand the sources of the gender wage gap or the sources of racial prejudice without tapping into the tools of sociology and psychology. Similarly, it is difficult to fully explore the sources and consequences of income inequality without paying attention to the role of political institutions, power and influence,” Professor Bertrand says.
Research with substantial impact
Professor Bertrand’s published work focuses on some of today’s most important and controversial issues: inequality, discrimination, sexism, CEO compensation and social divergence. The prize committee finds her research to encompass an outstanding breadth, that exemplifies the potential in contemporary methods such as machine learning, big data and randomized, controlled field experiments for addressing key questions in social science.
“Most of my work tries to leverage rich datasets to try to better understand the way society works, what motivates people and explain their decisions, why some people succeed and others don’t. Like all economists, I am interested in the role that market forces play in shaping people’s outcomes, but I am probably more interested than the average economist in the role that psychology, culture, norms and institutions play in shaping these outcomes,” says Professor Bertrand.
Marianne Bertrand’s research has had a substantial impact in both academia and policy-making. An important example is her paper on labour market discrimination “Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?” which inspired a large literature on discrimination in economics and affected the way companies and governments screen job candidates.
Another example is her work on CEO pay, showing that top executives were rewarded for “luck” – factors beyond CEO control – and that better board governance is called for. The research helped shape stockholder and regulator efforts to overhaul executive compensation rules.
“I try to make sure that my research has policy relevance, even if I do not always succeed. One easily remains motivated to study these topics because of concerns about fairness and equality of opportunities,” concludes Marianne Bertrand.
More about Marianne Bertrand (Chicago Booth webpage)