Prof. John List named speaker for UChicago’s 2024 Convocation ceremony

Pioneering economist “deeply humbled“ to deliver address during June 1 celebration

Prof. John List has been named the speaker for the University of Chicago’s Convocation ceremony on June 1.

A renowned economist, List pioneered the use of field experiments in the 1990s to answer questions that affect our everyday lives. His research tests economic theories in real-world settings such as schools, charitable organizations, and ride-share companies to shed light on issues like academic performance gaps, while deepening our understanding of fundamental economic problems.

“I am deeply humbled to address our students at this year’s Convocation,” said List, the Kenneth C. Griffin Distinguished Service Professor in Economics and the College. “I share a special bond with the Class of 2024 as I began our intellectual journey back in 2020 when my individual recruiting meetings were with masked prospects and my model class was an online lecture.” 

In the late 1980s, List began conducting accidental experiments as a sports card dealer to improve his market performance. His knowledge of the market paired with his economic learnings led to several formal field experiments at sports card shows as a graduate student.

Since then, he’s expanded his research to include almost every market imaginable: from schools to charitable organizations to flea markets to ride share to big box retail to financial traders. All told, he has published over 250 peer-reviewed journal articles and several books. In 2013, he co-authored the international bestseller The Why Axis, which explores people’s hidden motivations behind the decisions they make.

His most recent book, The Voltage Effect, also an international best seller, tackles scaling ideas from the small to the large. In it, List argues that effective solutions to problems like lagging school performance must achieve “high voltage,” or the ability to be replicated at larger scales to truly change the world. 

In 2023, List launched Economics for Everyone with colleagues Profs. Greg Kaplan, Robert Shimer and Steven Levitt. The digital curriculum repackages List and Levitt’s co-taught College economics course into bite-sized videos accessible anywhere in the world.

List served as the chair for UChicago’s Department of Economics from 2012-2018. He was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2011, and a fellow of the Econometric Society in 2015. List received the 2024 John von Neumann Award, the 2023 Cho Prize, the 2022 Adam Smith Award, the 2010 Kenneth Galbraith Award, the 2008 Arrow Prize for Senior Economists, was the 2012 Yrjo Jahnsson Lecture Prize recipient, and has received five honorary doctorates. He is a current editor of the Journal of Political Economy and founding editor of the Journal of Political Economy: Micro.

List said he was honored to help celebrate the Class of 2024.

“We now arrive at this special moment in time where our graduates look to the next chapter of their lives, where they will surely change the world in their own indelible way,” List said. “I will proudly watch each of them as they shape our world in unimaginable, though beautiful, ways.”

The 538th Convocation celebration—the annual “calling together” of the University community—will begin May 31 with the College’s Class Day held on the Main Quadrangles. The event will honor graduating College students and feature an address from Emmy-nominated actor Anna Chlumsky, AB’02.

Diploma and hooding ceremonies for the College and schools and divisions, will take place from May 31 through June 2. For more information, visit the Convocation website.