Edward Lazear, Distinguished Fellow 2019


Over the course of an innovative and prolific career, Edward Lazear has focused on the analysis of why workers and employers behave as they do in the labor market.  In pioneering work on personnel economics, he showed how mandatory retirement rules might arise in competitive labor markets, as a by-product of incentive schemes involving delayed compensation (see “Why Is There Mandatory Retirement?” Journal of Political Economy, 1979).   In related work, he showed why employers sometimes use tournaments rather than piece rates to motivate workers (see “Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts,” with Sherwin Rosen, Journal of Political Economy, 1981), in situations where it is difficult to measure effort.  Professor Lazear has also published important research on topics ranging from: worker compensation and effects on productivity; governmental policies on discrimination, affirmative action, and comparable worth; educational policy; unemployment; culture, language, and diversity issues; the doctrine of employment at will; the distribution of income within the household; and pricing and marketing policies. He has over 100 published articles and eleven books.

His pathbreaking research established the subfield of "Personnel Economics”.  This subfield in Labor Economics focuses on the employment arrangements that provide incentives for worker productivity and induce workers to cooperate effectively in large establishments. His book Personnel Economics published by MIT Press in 1995 summarizes his contributions that helped establish the subfield of Personnel Economics based on his 1993 Wicksell Lectures.  This book is the go-to reference for the entry-level scholar in this subfield providing a synthesis of his seminal contributions in this area in a primarily non-technical manner.

Lazear won the IZA Prize in Labor Economics in 2004, which is given to recognize internationally recognized significant contributions to labor economics. This was primarily for his work in personnel economics.  In June 2006, Lazear was awarded the Jacob Mincer Prize given by the Society of Labor Economics for lifetime contributions to the field. Lazear served as Chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers and was at the White House from 2006 to 2009. Founding Editor of the Journal of Labor Economics, Lazear is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Econometric Society, and a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. He is the former President of the Society of Labor Economists.

Professor Lazear is the Morris Arnold and Nona Jean Cox Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution since 1985, is also the Davies Family Professor of Economics at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, where he has taught since 1992. Professor Lazear taught previously at the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business. Born in 1948, Professor Lazear grew up in Los Altos, California. He received his AB and AM degrees from the University of California at Los Angeles, and his PhD in economics from Harvard University.