Last updated on October 24, 2008

In July the University launched the Milton Friedman Institute for Research in Economics to build on the outstanding history of economics scholarship in Chicago and make the University a destination for top scholars in years to come. Proposed by faculty in the Economics Department, the Law School and the Graduate School of Business, the Institute will highlight the collaborative work already going on at the University, as well as, attract visiting scholars and post-doctoral students. The Institute will host thematic workshops and use the Internet to help foster a worldwide conversation on the most important economic topics.

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Below are answers to frequently asked questions about the Milton Friedman Institute for Research in Economics.


Frequently Asked Questions

Why was the Milton Friedman Institute for Research in Economics established?

The University of Chicago has one of the nation's most distinguished faculties studying economics. Scholars from the Department of Economics, the Graduate School of Business and the Law School frequently work together on leading-edge research of the highest quality. The Milton Friedman Institute for Research in Economics was established to encourage more collaboration and foster work that will generate new ideas to advance scholarship in economics. The Institute will bring distinguished visiting scholars from a wide variety of perspectives to Chicago and will provide advanced professional training for outstanding post-doctoral students, as well as expanded opportunities for University of Chicago graduate students.

What was the process for approval of the Institute?

The Milton Friedman Institute for Research in Economics was proposed and approved through a deliberative process that is standard to the way centers and institutes are created at the University of Chicago. A committee of faculty from Economics, the Graduate School of Business and the Law School met and prepared a report proposing the Institute. Their proposal was then reviewed and approved by the Economics Department faculty and by the deans of the Graduate School of Business, the Law School, and the Social Sciences Division. The proposal was presented for discussion with the Committee of the Council and the full Council (the elected representative bodies of the faculty). Establishment of the Institute ultimately was approved by the Provost and the President. The Institute was formally launched on July 1, 2008.

What is the Institute’s mission?

The Milton Friedman Institute for Research in Economics will establish the standard for the best economic research by building on Chicago's traditions of rigorous development of economic models that are tested with the highest quality of empirical evidence. The Institute will encourage researchers to reach across the boundaries of their specializations to find ways of creating new ideas through fruitful collaborations.

How will the Institute distinguish itself?

In order to foster collaborations, the Institute will bring leading economists to Chicago as visitors, as well as support the work of University faculty. These visitors will help stimulate the research environment at Chicago with perspectives from a variety of subfields in economics, including ones that are not now well represented at Chicago. Additionally, MFI will serve as a home for the nation's most promising post-doctoral scholars, who will work with distinguished researchers and receive advanced professional training now not generally available. The Institute will provide a University-supported structure to connect the collaborative work now under way between Economics, Chicago Booth and the Law School and provide resources to keep the University of Chicago a leader as a dynamic place for economic research.

What kind of scholarly activities will the Institute support?

Much of the work of the Institute will take place through thematic workshops, an approach that has proved extremely successful at Chicago. These workshops provide a way for faculty and students to present their most recent research to a group of other scholars for review and critique as those projects move toward publication. The work of MFI scholars will be disseminated with the assistance of a communications staff and a strong use of the Web. In addition to this outreach, the Institute will host lectures and conferences for broader audiences.

How is the MFI different from other institutes and research organizations that look at economic issues and inform policy makers?

The Milton Friedman Institute for Research in Economics is an academic research enterprise established to generate and support new contributions to economic research and to explore research synergies. The Institute's robust visitor program, intentional engagement of scholars and students at various stages of their careers, and program of thematic workshops will be hallmarks of the Institute. Although research conducted at the Institute will likely be useful in framing and improving the assessment of economic policy-making broadly conceived, the Institute is not intended to be a "think tank" set up to foster a certain point of view or a particular policy agenda. On the contrary, the health of the Institute depends on the diversity of perspectives it draws into conversation.

What is the governing structure of the Institute?

The Institute will be directed by faculty, who will report to a board chaired by the University's provost and comprised of deans from the Graduate School of Business and the Social Sciences Division and the chair of the Department of Economics. The Institute might ultimately develop an external visiting committee, consistent with established University practices.

Why was the Institute named after Milton Friedman?

Milton Friedman, AM '33, joined the Economics faculty in 1946 and remained closely associated with the University throughout his life.  He received every honor an economist can be awarded, beginning with his receipt of the Clark Medal, given biennially by the American Economic Association to the best American economist under 40. He became a member of the National Academy of Science when the Economics section was first formed, he was President of the AEA in 1967, he was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1976, and he received the National Medal of Science in 1988. There was no point in his career when he was not regarded as one of a handful of scientific leaders in his field. 

Friedman contended that the most important contribution of the Chicago Economics to scholarship was its dedication to scientific inquiry, with a reliance on empirical data and rigorous analysis. He considered economics as a method of analysis that has broad applications to many topics. The Institute is intended to further Chicago's and Milton Friedman's rigorous approach to economics scholarship.

Where will the Institute be located?

The current planning calls for the Milton Friedman Institute for Research in Economics to be housed in what is now the main Chicago Theological Seminary building, which is located on the north side of 58th Street between University and Woodlawn avenues, when that building is vacated in 2012. The initial plans assume that the Department of Economics will move into this building as well, freeing up academic space in the University Quadrangles. The space needs and capacity of this building will be assessed more formally through a programming study in the coming year. Until MFI moves into new space, the Institute's programs will operate from offices in the Department of Economics in collaboration with Chicago Booth and Law School.

How is the Institute funded?

The University is seeking endowed support for the Institute and additional funding to support facility renovations.   

Will the donors to the Milton Friedman Institute for Research in Economics have input in shaping its intellectual agenda?

No. Donors will not provide any formal direction for scholarly research. Consistent with standard stewardship practices at the University and across higher education, supporters of the Institute will receive regular updates on the work of the Institute through newsletters, notice of public release of scholarly papers, and by invitation to public lectures and events. We hope that exchanges and interaction with private and public sector individuals will enhance the scholarly ambitions of the Institute as they can provide alternative perspectives on important problems.

How does the planning for the Milton Friedman Institute for Research in Economics fit with other University priorities?

The University is making significant investments in support for students and faculty, new programs, and new and renovated facilities. Among the new initiatives that have already been launched or are far along in planning are a graduate aid initiative to ensure that Ph.D. students are provided with highly competitive aid packages; an undergraduate financial aid program that eliminates loans for lower-income students; a major new center for performing and creative arts; a new research library primarily serving the social sciences and humanities; a new research facility for the physical and computational sciences; an undergraduate residential complex and dining facility; and a new hospital pavilion. Funding for these programs ranges from primarily grant and donor-funded, such as the Milton Friedman Institute for Research in Economics, to funded almost entirely from University operating funds, such as the graduate aid initiative.