Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Professor and a leading economist, has been appointed director of the Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics.
Greenstone will build upon the work of Lars Peter Hansen, the David Rockefeller Distinguished Service Professor and inaugural director of the Becker Friedman Institute, and Kevin M. Murphy, the George J. Stigler Distinguished Service Professor, who has served as co-chair with Hansen since 2014. The institute supports economic research and interdisciplinary scholarship, bringing together scholars from around the world and building programming and public outreach that draws upon the University’s strength in the field of economics.
“The Becker Friedman Institute carries on the University’s distinctive tradition of developing new ideas through intense discussion and collaboration. Michael embodies those ideals in his work, and he is the right leader to continue developing the institute’s ambitious intellectual approach,” President Robert J. Zimmer said.
“Michael is an exceptional scholar who also has a deep understanding of public policy,” Provost Daniel Diermeier said. “As director, he will further enhance the development and impact of the creative thinking and rigorous research for which the institute has become known under the leadership of Lars Hansen and Kevin Murphy.”
The research of Greenstone, who is director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), spans issues of energy and the environment, developed and developing country growth, and financial markets. He brings to the institute extensive policy experience, including serving as chief economist for the White House Council of Economic Advisors and director of The Hamilton Project, an economic policy group studying a range of policies to promote broad-based economic growth. He is currently on the Hamilton Project’s Advisory Council.
“Michael’s research has had a considerable impact on the modern study of economics, underscoring the field’s relevance for policy and people’s quality of life,” said John List, chairman of the Department of Economics and the Kenneth C. Griffin Distinguished Service Professor. “He is a prominent voice in the field who will build importantly on the innovative insights and groundwork laid by Lars Hansen and Kevin Murphy.”
Greenstone’s appointment takes effect July 1, 2017. He will continue in his role as director of EPIC, which will function as an integral part of the Becker Friedman Institute. EPIC is an interdisciplinary center that brings together the University’s research efforts on energy and the environment and translates research to maximize its impact on policy, while working to train the next generation of global energy leaders.
“Becker and Friedman were giants in helping to shape understanding of the world, both within economics and more broadly. It is an honor to lead an institute that aims to carry on the tradition and high bar for excellence that they have set for Chicago economics,” said Greenstone, a professor in Economics, the College and the Harris School of Public Policy. “Specifically, we will continue to build economic theory that deepens understanding, tests those theories with all of the modern tools available to researchers today and communicates the results in ways that are broadly accessible. I feel especially fortunate to be able to build upon the tremendous foundation that Lars Hansen and Kevin Murphy have constructed.”
Greenstone said his new role at UChicago comes at an exciting time for economic research, when a confluence of advances in techniques, computing and access to data have laid the groundwork for much deeper understanding of economics and the world. “We are entering a golden era where economic theory and empirical work are poised to make great advances that can be of tremendous value outside of academia, particularly to policymakers,” Greenstone said.
“Michael’s research is cutting-edge, practical and relevant to real-world challenges,” said Henry M. Paulson Jr., chairman of the Paulson Institute at the University of Chicago who serves on the Becker Friedman Institute Council. “He combines great analytical and communications skills and is an excellent choice for this role.”
The Becker Friedman Institute was created in 2011 with the joining of the Milton Friedman Institute for Research in Economics and the Becker Center on Chicago Price Theory. Based in the Saieh Hall for Economics, the institute works in collaboration with the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, the Department of Economics, the Law School and the Harris School of Public Policy.
The institute’s first chair was Gary S. Becker, AM’53, PhD’55, University Professor of Economics and Sociology, who pushed economics into new scholarly fields and policy areas, such as crime, discrimination, education and addiction. Becker died in 2014.
Before coming to the University in 2013, Greenstone served as the 3M Professor of Environmental Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is also a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and an editor of The Journal of Political Economy.
In addition to serving as the chief economist for the White House Council of Economic Advisors from 2009 to 2010, Greenstone now serves on the U.S. Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board, and continues to consult with governments around the world to develop sound economic policies. He was a member of the EPA Science Advisory Board’s Environmental Economics Advisory Committee.
Greenstone has deep roots at UChicago. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and served as an assistant professor of economics at the University from 2000 to 2003. His grandmother, Erika Fromm, was on the psychology faculty at UChicago and his father, J. David Greenstone, was a professor and chairman of the Department of Political Science before his death in 1990.