Cal professor David Card wins 2021 Nobel Prize in Economics

Another campus parking spot will be reserved for a Nobel Laureate

Finishing out the 2021 Nobel Prize “week”, University of California, Berkeley professor David Card has been awarded 1/2 of the Nobel Prize in Economics for “his empirical contributions to labour economics”. Card will share the prize with Joshua Angrist of MIT and Guido Imbens of Stanford University; Angrist and Imbens will split the other half of the prize “for their methodological contributions to the analysis of causal relationships”. So that is 1/2 of the $1.2 million prize money going to the Cal professor, while only 1/4 of that will be going to the Stanford professor.

Card joins Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine winner David Julius, a Cal Ph.D. alumnus, as well as Nobel Prize in Chemistry winner David W.C. MacMillan, who started a lot of his prize-winning work when he first became a professor at Cal, as 2021 laureates with ties to Berkeley. Here at Write for California, we love to celebrate our Nobel laureates regardless of their affiliations with the University, but some people (particularly Stanford) prioritize these faculty wins above all else (personally as a Cal alum, my favorite is the ones earned by fellow Cal alumni).

David Card becomes the 6th Cal Nobel Laureate in Economics and the 26th overall (if you only count on-campus faculty) in school history.

You can hear David Card’s telephone interview with the Nobel Prize people below. Card humbly talks about being surprised that he won the award.

Here is the link to the official press conference held by the University.

Economics impact review (feat. Piotr Le)

Rather than creating theoretical economic theories, David Card works with the much more practical real-world problems, thus the word “empirical” in his winning citation. His most famous work involves the minimum wage, showing how the rise of minimum wage in New Jersey in the early 1990s did not cause a Fast Food worker shortage (Card and Krueger, 1994). This work relied on a natural experiment (naturally occurring creation of a control group and experiment) where New Jersey increased their minimum wage vs. neighboring Pennsylvania. It’s not just a seminal paper in labor economics, but also a case study of how to look and take advantage of natural experiments in the field.

His work with Kruger was considered controversial because it undermined the prevailing logic of the time of minimum wages reducing labor (wages go up, therefore it’s more expensive to get labor, therefore employers will hire less). See here the reaction of one economist to their paper:

This and a couple of other works: ex. showing that increases in immigration do not impact the wages of native populations, therefore, arguing that the immigration restrictions based on labor market arguments are baseless (Card, 2005) and were the reason why when reading Labor Economics work his name would pop up in the reference section.

Additionally, during my (Piotr) time at Berkeley (2010-14) he was one of the professors who despite their renown would still teach undergraduates (Econ 101A). My friend had the pleasure to take the class with him and noted that the class was both hard but fair since the series was designed for economics students who may pursue a Ph.D. His usage of natural experiments becoming the modus operandi of any undergraduate/graduate research at Berkeley.

On the other hand politically, Card did recently testified in support of Harvard in their lawsuit by Asian American students who sued against the racial-conscious screening.

A native of Canada, Card got his undergraduate degree in physics from Queen’s University before switching to Economics and earning a Ph.D. from Princeton in 1983. He joins the Cal faculty in 1998 after stops in Princeton, Harvard, and Chicago. Card is now the Class of 1950 Professor of Economics. He also serves as the director of UC Berkeley’s Center for Labor Economics, the campus’s Econometrics Laboratory.

Congratulations to Professor Card!

Go Bears!