2021 Economics Nobel Prize predictions

Silently rooting for a causal inference and an empirical labor prize

I grew up loving all major awards, be it the Academy Awards or the awards given out at the end of Little League baseball season. So obviously when I became an economist, that enthusiasm would continue to our awards, such as the John Bates Clark Award and the Nobel Prize in economics. I love everything about the week we celebrate someone or some group of people’s contributions to our science, because I love economics and I love economists. I even love the annual tradition of someone telling me it isn’t a real award. Every year, I act surprised and say to them “What? Go on, tell me more.” And it never gets old.

I used to only predict Al Roth would win, because I had read Roth and Sotomayor’s book on two-sided matching in graduate school three times, and it more or less changed my entire worldview. Then he won, and I moved on to predicting Josh Angrist, David Card and Alan Krueger. Tragically, Professor Krueger passed away before he could win the award, which while in the scheme of things not winning an award isn’t really a big deal, it is one of those instances where I wish the award could be given posthumously.

I have often debated, then — when the Nobel committee does inevitably give another award for causal inference, how will it go? Will it go to Angrist and Card, leaving out a third in honor of Professor Krueger? I prefer this arrangement, like leaving a seat vacant at Thanksgiving for the loved one who has passed in remembrance. Or will the committee choose to add a third deserving person, and if so, who? So I will make a few predictions in order to hedge.

  1. Josh Angrist and David Card for their work on empirical labor economics

  2. Josh Angrist, David Card and Orley Ashenfelter for their work on empirical labor economics

  3. Guido Imbens for his work on causal inference

  4. Guido Imbens and Don Rubin for their work on causal inference

So that’s my prediction — some combination of those five. Which is not to say that there aren’t many other deserving people who could win in the area that I enjoy, which is the crossing of labor and causal inference. I could see Susan Athey winning it for her work on machine learning and causal inference, but in the private betting pool in my mind, I usually have Susan Athey winning solo for combined work on auctions, machine learning and causal inference. But this year, I will go some version of 1-4.

If you are interested in making your own predictions, you can go to this google form and submit up to three names. I’ll post the results on Friday in some kind of horribly designed Stata graph undoubtedly.