James Heckman on Gary Becker’s approach to economic research

Nice IZA discussion paper by James Heckman on Gary Becker’s distinctive abductive scientific method.

Becker created a powerful body of economic science. He did so by relentlessly applying three principles: (a) economic agents act in their self interest (broadly defined and ever more broadly defined over his career); (b) preferences are stable (but they can evolve through practice, habituation, learning and hence they can differ among people); and (c) markets—broadly defined—are in equilibrium (both formal markets and informal nonmarket settings using explicit and implicit “shadow” prices respectively) (Becker, 1978).

Worth a read, especially for those who want a quick overview of Becker’s major contributions. IIf you are interested in labor economics, you should consider subscribing to the newsletters from the Institution for the Study of Labor (IZA).


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