James J. Heckman is the Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, a Nobel Memorial Prize winner in economics, and an expert in the economics of human development. Through the university’s Center for the Economics of Human Development, he has conducted groundbreaking work with a consortium of economists, developmental psychologists, sociologists, statisticians and neuroscientists showing that quality early childhood development heavily influences health, economic and social outcomes for individuals and society at large. Heckman has shown that there are great economic gains to be had by investing in early childhood development.
Heckman received his B.A. in mathematics from Colorado College in 1965 and his Ph.D. in economics from Princeton University in 1971. Since 1973, he has served as a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, where he directs the Economics Research Center, the Center for the Economics of Human Development, and the Center for Social Program Evaluation at the Harris School of Public Policy. He is a professor of law at the University of Chicago School of Law, senior research fellow at the American Bar Foundation, and research fellow at the Institute for Fiscal Studies.
Professor Heckman’s work has been devoted to the development of a scientific basis for economic policy evaluation, with special emphasis on models of individuals and disaggregated groups, and to the problems and possibilities created by heterogeneity, diversity and unobserved counterfactual states. In the early 1990s, his pioneering research on the outcomes of people who obtain the GED certificate received national attention. His findings, which found great deficiencies in the alleged value of the degree, spurred debates across the country on the merits of obtaining the certificate.
His recent research focuses on human development and lifecycle skill formation, with a special emphasis on the economics of early childhood development. His research has given policymakers important new insights into such areas as education, job-training programs, minimum-wage legislation, anti-discrimination law, social supports and civil rights.
He is currently editor of the Journal of Labor Economics. He is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Econometric Society, the Society of Labor Economics and the American Statistical Association, and a fellow of the American Academy of Art and Sciences.