Michael Spence, Clark Medalist 1981

Citation on the Occasion of the Presentation of the Medal

Helen of Troy's face launched a thousand ships. Not many Ph.D. theses can be said to have launched even a hundred articles; but Michael Spence's certainly comes close. Market Signalling, published in 1974, was the origin of a considerable literature on its own specific way of looking at the world. In addition, it can fairly be called the main forerunner of the even more far-reaching study of the information-carrying role of market transactions. Spence has also been one of the pioneers in the modern revival of the theory of monopolistic competition as a realistic market form. This work has led him to turn to the study of strategic behavior in business, and here he has combined great theoretical flair with close observation of business practice. In a few short years, Michael Spence has become an intellectual leader of the "new economics of industrial organization." He has helped mightily to revive the vigor of an important branch of our subject. The American Economic Association gladly awards him the J. B. Clark Medal for 1981.