Rosenfield gift to foster studies drawing on economics, policy and law

With $25 million, Becker Friedman Institute creates interdisciplinary program tackling pressing societal problems

The University of Chicago has received a gift from Andrew and Betsy Rosenfield that will foster interdisciplinary research into pressing social issues. The gift provides $25 million in resources to the Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics by establishing within it The Andrew and Betsy Rosenfield Program in Economics, Public Policy and Law.   

This program will support empirical economic studies using Chicago Price Theory and also finance field experiments in economics, all to address pressing problems in fields as diverse as education, environmental and health care policy, and crime. It will complement the Law School’s new Institute for Law and Economics, and promote collaboration among scholars in the Economics Department, the Law School, the Chicago Booth School of Business, and the Harris School of Public Policy Studies.

The Rosenfield gift also will support more generally the work of the Becker Friedman Institute, including its activities at the University of Chicago Center in Beijing, and provide discretionary funds for the chairman of the Institute.

The gift builds upon the Rosenfields’ deep connections with the University, tracing back to Andrew Rosenfield’s arrival in the 1970s as a student in the Economics Department and at the Law School. A Trustee of the University since 1996, Andrew Rosenfield, JD’78, also is a senior lecturer in the Law School, where he has taught for more than 25 years. Betsy Rosenfield also has close ties to the University, having attended the Laboratory Schools from pre-K through high school. Her parents, Edwin and Lindy Bergman, are graduates of the College, and Andrew Rosenfield’s father, Maurice, graduated from the College and the Law School.

“The Becker Friedman Institute was founded as a dynamic meeting place for researchers with diverse perspectives and research backgrounds,” said President Robert. J. Zimmer. “With this generous donation from the Rosenfields, the tradition of evidence-based research on fundamental problems in the areas of economics, law, and policy will find new form and new opportunities.”

Rosenfield said, “Our gift is intended to foster the use of Chicago Price Theory and empirical and experimental economic methods—many of which were developed at Chicago—to understand and solve important social problems.  One of Chicago’s enduring strengths is the facilitation of collaboration across disciplinary boundaries, which is essential to make this sort of work successful and practicable.”

“This is a magnificent gift,” said Gary Becker, Chairman of the Becker Friedman Institute and University Professor in Economics, Sociology, Chicago Booth and the Law School. “Andy and I have been good friends since his days in the graduate Economics Department and as a student in the Law School. His career is a testament to the beneficial impact that ideas from the academy can have in the world. This gift provides a great start for supporting the intellectual work of the Becker Friedman Institute, and we hope it will inspire others to help support important research in economics and connected fields.”

One immediate benefit of the donation is to further strengthen ties between the Law School and the Becker Friedman Institute, including the Law School’s continuing efforts to promote research that connects law and economics, as reflected in the school’s recently announced Law and Economics 2.0 initiative.

“I am thrilled by Andy and Betsy’s gift, which is just the latest expression of Andy’s deep commitment to the Law School and the University,” said Michael H. Schill, Dean of the Law School.  “Their generosity will help to ensure that Chicago will remain the leader in law and economics scholarship and pedagogy in the future.”

Distinguished UChicago economists Steven Levitt and Kevin Murphy will be the co-directors of the Program. Murphy, the George J. Stigler Distinguished Service Professor at Chicago Booth, in Economics and at the Law School, said the gift will help support cutting-edge research on some of today’s most difficult policy issues, including income inequality, education, health care, and the need to expand productivity and develop human capital in modern economies.

“As we look forward, it is important that governments, businesses and individuals make decisions in these critical topic areas based on a sound understanding of the underlying economics,” Murphy said. “The Rosenfield gift could not have come at a better time. It will support research at the Becker Friedman Institute that is central to understanding some of the most important policy questions of our day.”

Levitt, the William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor in Economics, the College and the Law School, said the donation also will provide crucial support for work on Price Theory at the Becker Friedman Institute.

“Chicago Price Theory is one of the strongest intellectual traditions at the University,” Levitt said.  “The Rosenfield gift will be critical to not only preserving but strengthening Chicago's leadership role in Price Theory. Our mission is not just to produce cutting edge research that is relevant to policy, but to make sure the next generation of economists is exposed to the power of these tools.”

Another example of the sort of research the donation will support is the work of John List, Homer J. Livingston Professor in Economics, the College and the Law School. List and his colleagues make extensive use of field experiments to address questions such as how monetary incentives affect student performance, the role of gender in job selection, and how social connections affect charitable giving.

“We want to look at areas of behavior that have not been examined carefully by economists,” Becker said. “Part of that means identifying important problems and attracting the right people to study them.”

Working at the intersection of economics, law and public policy comes naturally to Rosenfield.  “I came to the University of Chicago to get educated, and I never really left,” Rosenfield said. “Although I arrived as a graduate student in economics, I also enrolled at the Law School because I was fascinated by the interdisciplinary work being done by scholars such as George Stigler, Gary Becker, William Landes and Richard Posner. At that time this sort of work was unique to Chicago.”

In 1977, while a second-year student at the Law School, Rosenfield co-founded (with Richard A. Posner, now a senior lecturer at the Law School and a Judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and William M. Landes, the Clifton R. Musser Emeritus Professor of Economics) the law and economics consulting firm Lexecon Inc.  Rosenfield served as chief executive officer of Lexecon for more than 20 years, through its sale to a public company.

Today in addition to his role as a senior lecturer at the Law School, Rosenfield is a managing partner of Guggenheim Partners LLC, and managing partner and chief executive officer of The Greatest Good, an economics and philanthropic consulting firm.

The Rosenfield gift marks another milestone in innovative scholarship around economics, law and policy at the University. In June, the Becker Friedman Institute was established to promote research, organize conferences and attract outstanding visiting scholars of all levels to the University. More information about the Institute can be found at http://bfi.uchicago.edu.

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Betsy and Andrew Rosenfield

Betsy and Andrew Rosenfield

Courtesy of Betsy and Andrew Rosenfield

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