Prof. James Heckman receives prestigious honor from Chinese government

Friendship Award honors Nobel laureate’s groundbreaking economic research

University of Chicago Nobel laureate James J. Heckman has received the Friendship Award, the highest honor issued by the Chinese government to foreign experts.

A world-renowned expert on the economics of human development, Heckman was one of 42 recipients of this year’s award, chosen for outstanding contributions to China’s economic and social progress. 

The Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor in Economics, Heckman is director of the Center for the Economics of Human Development at the University of Chicago, which uses rigorous empirical research to determine effective human capital policies and program design. One of the center’s capstone projects is the ChinaReach Project, a groundbreaking early childhood research project designed to evaluate the joint impact of China’s Children Nutrition Improvement Project in Poverty-stricken Areas and the Jamaica Parenting and Psychosocial Stimulation Curriculum.

In 2018, the center launched a collaborative research initiative with the Institute for Economic and Social Research at Jinan University, with the aim of investigating human flourishing. The UChicago-Jinan Initiative examines the circumstances under which people are able to develop the skills needed to thrive in the modern economy., focusing on the context of China and facilitating academic exchange between the two universities.

“Our joint research with Professor Heckman will not only contribute to general knowledge, but will also help China to better cope with its pressing practical challenges,” said Shuaizhang Feng, dean of IESR.

Heckman also gave the acceptance speech Sept. 30 on behalf of all the recipients at this year’s award convocation, part of China’s 70th National Day ceremony celebrating the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

—Adapted from a story that first appeared on the Center for the Economics of Human Development website.