Guido Imbens

Article

October 17, 2021

Guido Wilhelmus Imbens (born September 3, 1963 in Geldrop) - Dutch-American economist specializing in econometrics, laureate of the Bank of Sweden Prize Alfred Nobel in Economics (2021).

Curriculum vitae

Youth and education

He was born on September 3, 1963 in Geldrop, the Netherlands. His father dropped out of mathematics studies, but he engaged his children in learning this field through play. Childhood friends recall that Guido was introverted, friendly, humble, and mathematically gifted. He was interested in playing chess. From 1982 he studied econometrics at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. In 1986 he obtained the professional title of M.Sc. (cum laude) in Economics and Econometrics at the University of Hull in Kingston upon Hull, UK. In the same year, in the footsteps of Anthony Lancaster, a lecturer and mentor persuading him to pursue an academic career, he moved to the United States, where he worked as an assistant at Brown University in Providence (1986–1989), obtaining his MA in 1989, and in 1991 a Ph. .D. in economics.

Professional work

In the years 1989–1990 he was a lecturer at the University of Tilburg. In the years 1990–1997 he lectured at Harvard University in Cambridge - until 1994 as assistant professor, then as associate professor. In 1996–1997 he was visiting professor at the University of Arizona. From 1997 to 2001 he was a professor of economics at the University of California, Los Angeles. In 2000 he was visiting professor at the European University Institute in Florence. In the following years he was a professor of economics at the University of California in Berkeley (2002–2006), Harvard University (2006–2012), and from 2012 at Stanford University in Stanford. From 2014 he was also a professor of econometrics at the same university. He is the author of numerous scientific publications, mainly in English. During his first year at Harvard, he befriended a coworker, Joshua Angrist - according to their recollections, they regularly devoted their time to talking about scientific work, even at the campus laundry. In a joint 1994 article, they described under what conditions and how econometric analysis (e.g. the instrumental variable method) allows the estimation of causal relationships, even based on non-random observational data. This allowed for the dissemination of quasi-experimental empirical research in economics as well as other social and medical sciences. Their text is one of the most cited economic publications from the nineties. The development of such techniques contributed to the empirical turn in economics (the so-called credibility revolution); according to the 2020 analysis, the proportion of economic preprints reported to the NBER that used experimental or quasi-experimental techniques increased between 1980 and 2020 from a few to over 40%. In the following years, he also collaborated and published, inter alia, with Donald Rubin, David Card, Alan Krueger (on the econometric tools for studying causation), and with his wife, Susan Athey (on the applications of machine learning in causal inference). Using the development of quasi-experimental techniques, he estimated in the research, among others the positive impact of education on wages, the neutral impact of guaranteed income on employment, or the negative impact of participation in the Vietnam War on wages and mortality for American veterans - with the help of ingenious instrumental variables such as lottery results and random aspects of conscription. According to Alex Tabarrok, however, Imbens' main contribution and field of work are the theoretical foundations of econometrics. He dealt with, among others the discontinuity regression method, the difference-in-difference technique, or regression using matching. He and Rubin published a textbook developing the Neyman-Rubin causal model (the so-called potential outcomes). Since 2002 he has been a member of the

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