MIT economist Joshua Angrist shares Nobel Prize

MIT economist Joshua Angrist shares Nobel Prize

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[MUSIC PLAYING] KIMBERLY: Welcome to MIT's press briefing with Professor and Nobel Laureate Josh Angrist. Whether you're on the line as a journalist, or just following along with the live webcast, we are grateful for your interest in economic sciences and for your time today. We're just about ready to get started, but a few brief logistical items up top. Provost Marty Schmidt is on the line with us. He will open with a few congratulatory remarks on behalf of our entire MIT family. Professor Angrist will offer some brief reflections, and then we'll open for Q&A.

At that point, journalists, if you have a question, please raise your hand using the button at the bottom of your Zoom screen. When I open your line, state your name and outlet before asking your question. For those of you following along, especially if there are any student journalists there, if we can get a couple of questions in from you we will. Just email those to With that, I'd like to turn it over to Marty Schmidt, MIT's Provost. Marty? MARTY SCHMIDT: Thank you, Kimberly, and welcome everyone.

I am absolutely honored to tell you officially what you already know. This morning, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced that MIT'S Josh Angrist, along with his colleagues, David Card of the University of California at Berkeley, and Guido Imbens of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, have been awarded the 2021 Sveriges Riksbank prize in Economic Sciences in memory of Alfred Nobel. Professor Angrist joined the MIT faculty in 1996, and has served as the Ford Professor of Economics at MIT since 2008.

He was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2006, and serves as a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He received a BA in economics from Oberlin College in 1982, a master's in economics from Princeton University in 1987, and his PhD in economics from Princeton in 1989. He served as an assistant professor at Harvard University for two years and a faculty member at Hebrew University before joining MIT.

At MIT, Professor Angrist is a Director of Blueprint Labs, a research lab focused on pressing problems in education, health care, and the workforce. A lab which uses cutting edge research from the fields of market design and research design to produce rigorous evidence that can help decision makers design and implement social policy. In addition to his research he's a skilled educator. In fact, in 2019, he was appointed as a MacVicar Faculty Fellow in recognition of his exemplary undergraduate teaching. Professor Angrist was cited by the academy specifically for his work establishing new methods of conducting natural experiments in economics, allowing researchers to better understand cause and effect in complex social situations. His empirical research has examined the effects of both military service and education on lifetime earnings, explored the effects of immigration and major labor market regulation, and studied the economics of education and school reform.

The Nobel citation states Professor Angrist and his colleagues' research has been of great benefit to society. Professor Angrist's work examining the effects of real world economic circumstances and social policies is a proud reminder of MIT's commitment to bring knowledge to bear on the world's most pressing issues. The Institute's mission calls on us to solve the world's greatest challenges and make it a better place in service to humanity. MIT economics is known for its exceptional talent and its commitment to making a better world, and Josh certainly exemplifies both. Professor Angrist is the eighth individual to win the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences while serving on the MIT faculty. With this achievement he builds on the remarkable legacy of Professors Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, Paul Samuelson, Franco Modigliani, Robert Solow, Peter Diamond, and Bengt Holmstrom.

We are deeply proud of our newest Nobel Laureate and the entire MIT economics department. On that note, please join me in welcoming Professor Angrist. JOSH ANGRIST: Thank you, Marty.

Should I go ahead and say something, or do you want to start with questions? So we just-- sorry, go ahead, Kimberly. KIMBERLY: Yeah, you can have a few reflections, and then we'll open the floor. JOSH ANGRIST: Just very briefly, Marty mentioned all the MIT economics laureates that have come before me. It's a stellar legacy indeed, and I'm just humbled and gratified to be part of that list.

I can hardly believe it. It's only been a few hours and I'm trying to absorb the idea that I'm on a list that includes people like Samuelson and Solow from decades ago, and then more recently, Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee. It's just the greatest honor a person could have. It's a high point of my life.

I also want to say how proud and pleased I am to share the bill with Dave Card, who is indeed a pioneering scholar, and was a wonderful mentor to me. He was one of my thesis advisors. And to share the bill with Guido Imbens, who is a long time collaborator, one of my first collaborators and a good friend for many decades.

Guido and I have been on a long journey together, and we're super happy to see the fruits of our work together recognized in this way. And I've had many talented co-authors, too many to mention here. But I'll just briefly mention the late Alan Krueger, who was a big career contributor to my work and Dave card's work.

And I want to also mention Orley Ashenfelter who was another thesis advisor, who is in many ways the godfather of the movement towards credible natural experiments that this award recognizes. And finally I want to mention my Blueprint Labs codirectors and coauthors and friends, Parag Pathak and David Autor. They are two big reasons, not the only reasons, but two of the biggest reasons why I love working at MIT. KIMBERLY: Thank you so much. We really appreciate those comments. So journalists, again, if you have a question, please select the raise hand button on the bottom of your Zoom screen.

And when I open your line, if you can state your name and outlet before asking your question, I would appreciate that. All right the first question here I know is from Christopher Rugaber with the Associated Press. Your line should be open here. CHRISTOPHER RUGABER: Hi. Hi, how are you? JOSH ANGRIST: Hi, Christopher.

CHRISTOPHER RUGABER: Yeah, congratulations. JOSH ANGRIST: Thank you. CHRISTOPHER RUGABER: I guess one question would be, I think I saw that you dropped out of Hebrew University, the Masters of Economics course there. Can you tell us maybe a little bit about that, and why that happened, and what that says about your path toward this economics career? JOSH ANGRIST: Well, you're digging way back into my early educational history there, Christopher. I did have sort of a winding road. I wasn't a precocious high school student.

I left high school early and went to work for a while before I decided I really probably should go to college. And then I had kind of a false start in graduate study at Hebrew University. It wasn't their fault, it was mine.

Eventually things worked out and I ended up doing my PhD, getting my BA at Oberlin, and doing my PhD at Princeton. CHRISTOPHER RUGABER: Well, can you just tell us-- actually I didn't get all the dates. When did you decide to stop the Hebrew University master's program, and what led you to go back? Anymore detail on that? JOSH ANGRIST: I didn't go back to Hebrew U. CHRISTOPHER RUGABER: Right.

JOSH ANGRIST: So after I graduated from college, which I think was in 1982, I decided to move to Israel to make Aliyah, as they say in Hebrew, and I became an Israeli citizen. I started my time in Israel as a graduate student at Hebrew University, which was a big success for me personally, because I met my wife, my future wife, Mira. But it wasn't a big success academically. I dropped out after about a year of some struggle, but I had by then become an Israeli citizen, and I served for two years in the Israeli Army. After that, I was able to convince my new wife, my then new wife, Mira, that we should go, and I could go back to the US where I would finish my graduate studies there. And that's how I ended up at Princeton.

CHRISTOPHER RUGABER: Great. Thank you. KIMBERLY: All right. Again, if you want to hit raise hand, don't be shy. We can get your questions in for those of you who are on the line.

Wow, Josh, I think you've made everyone speechless here. Oh here we go. David Harrison, your line is open. JOSH ANGRIST: Hi, David. DAVID HARRISON: Hi.

Can you hear me? JOSH ANGRIST: Yes. DAVID HARRISON: Hi. Great. Well, congratulations, Professor Angrist. Could you just sort of walk us through a little bit how you found out about the award this morning, what your first reaction was? Kind of walk us through what the past few hours have been like. JOSH ANGRIST: Well, I was very surprised.

I had taken a brief vacation. I was trying to squeeze one day, the last day of the sailing season in down on the Cape, so I wasn't really focused on this. Down on Cape Cod. And I got up early, by chance, and I looked at my phone. I saw there were some text messages. Initially I wasn't paying much attention.

And then I saw there were a lot of text messages, and I realized I'd better wake up and pay attention. I had missed the call from Sweden because it was already about 6:00 AM East Coast time. But luckily I have so many friends and colleagues that have won Nobel prizes that I was able to get the phone number for the Nobel committee from a colleague, Bengt Holmstrom.

And so I called them. And initially they didn't take my call. Eventually I found the right person. [LAUGHS] DAVID HARRISON: Wait, so you're saying you're on the Cape right now then. JOSH ANGRIST: No, I came back. I came back.

DAVID HARRISON: OK. JOSH ANGRIST: I came right back. DAVID HARRISON: OK. So you had planned to spend today sailing? JOSH ANGRIST: I did. I did. DAVID HARRISON: Oh.

Well, how did this feel, to have to postpone a sailing day? JOSH ANGRIST: Well, it's unfortunate, of course, but I'll make it up someday soon. DAVID HARRISON: All right. Terrific. Thank you. KIMBERLY: All right.

Thank you, David at The Wall Street Journal. If there are any other questions, please hit the raise hand. I see Jill Shah.

JOSH ANGRIST: So far not too much about my work. [LAUGHS] JILL SHAH: Well, I'll start there. Sorry if this has been answered, but can you talk a bit about some of the real world usage that your work has had and what you think the field has taken away from it. JOSH ANGRIST: Sure, Jill. Thank you for that-- JILL SHAH: I'm sorry, this is Bloomberg News.

I forgot to mention-- JOSH ANGRIST: So part of my work is methodology, methodological. We set out the work with Guido Imbens. We set out to show how we're focused on particular types of questions. The broader field is applied microeconomics. We ask questions about individual decisions and the consequences of those decisions, like where to go to school, where to work, what type of job, whether to undertake some type of training, a lot of things related to the labor market.

And our methods are designed to allow econometricians and similar academic analysts, mostly, to answer those kinds of questions. Where the ideal answer is, pretty clearly, would be a randomized trial you would run a clinical trial. So for example, one of the things we've studied a lot at Blueprint Labs, this is in the latter part of my career or the more recent part of my career, is as the type of school that you go to.

Does it matter, for example, thinking about public education? As many of you will know, one of the controversial topics in public education, public policy, as it relates to education, is the role of charter schools. And there's a vigorous debate about whether kids who go to charter schools in public school systems, these are publicly funded private schools effectively, so that's a controversial idea. What are the consequences of that? Do people who go to charter schools learn more than they would have if they had gone to a traditional public school? And that's a hard question to answer because the people who go to charter schools are making a choice.

And sometimes they're also subject to a screening process that involves application and maybe eventually a lottery. So those are all sort of confounders, we would say. Imagine that we could answer that question by running a clinical trial, just as we evaluate the Moderna vaccine, say, for COVID-19.

There were 30,000 participants in the stage three Moderna trial that were randomly divided into two groups, and one group was given the vaccine, the other group was given the placebo. That would be the ideal research design for evaluating something like charter school attendance and finding out if kids who go to charter school benefit from that. Now, in practice, we don't actually do those kind of clinical trials, or at least not very often. The kind of methodological work that Guido Imbens and I focused on over 30 years ago, we started thinking about this, is how to come up with strategies that provide evidence that's as good as the evidence that you would get if you were able to run a randomized trial for something like the effects of charter attendance. And initially we had sort of an idea and then that became a framework for the use of statistical and econometric methods that mimic the sort of research design that you would get in a clinical trial without actually having to do the trial. And you can't always do that, but often you can do that using natural variation.

So I mentioned, for example, some applicants to charter schools are admitted by lottery, and that turns out to be the key. There's an element of random assignment, and the question is how do you extract the random assignment from a very elaborate process which is not nearly as well controlled as it would be if it was a clinical trial. KIMBERLY: Jill, do you have any follow up? We have one from our webcast viewers. An undergraduate student at Pilani University in India asks, "Well, congratulations. I'm deeply inspired by your way of teaching econometrics. Can you please tell how much econometrics would be relevant in the long term, like in the next 30 to 50 years, in a world where data science and AI methodologies are growing with leaps and bounds? Thanks in advance."

JOSH ANGRIST: Well, that's a great question. I've been asked about that before, and I've commented on that. I think maybe the questioner has seen some of my videos I've produced, working with Marginal Revolution University based at George Mason.

I've produced some short videos on econometric methods, and some of those videos, I'm also asked to answer questions like this one. What is the role, for example, of big data and machine learning? I hope this won't be disappointing to too many people, but I'm not sure that those tools are revolutionizing econometrics as much as some of the other fields where they're used. The challenge of econometrics is to learn about causal effects.

And the key to learning about causal effects is uncovering some sort of research strategy. We call it a research design. Some sort of combination of statistical tools and natural variations that mimics the randomized trial.

And just having a lot of data, having a million observations instead of 100,000, that's not often the most important thing. It's more about where the data comes from and your insights into the process that's generating the data than the actual size of the data set. So a lot of the tools of contemporary big data and machine learning, artificial intelligence, they might be supporting players in the kind of work that I do, but they're rarely central. KIMBERLY: Thank you for that. All right, I've opened your line. Andrej Sokolow at DPA, your line should be open.

ANDREJ SOKOLOW: Yeah, thank you. First, congratulations, sir. And my question was, actually, really similar to the previous one, but maybe as a follow up to what you said. What tools do you think might be useful for the research you're doing, looking at technology? Because obviously, you have lots more data, and you have other ways to analyze this data. So where do you see technology helping you? JOSH ANGRIST: Well, sort of two aspects to it, Andrej. What I was commenting on before is that the size of the data set is not the most important thing.

People have heard that sort of view before. It's not really the case that size matters to the extent that a lot of the big data tools are motivated by having super large data sets. But having access to data is absolutely central and modern technology is facilitating that.

So it gets easier to get more interesting data sets by virtue of access to some of that information through the internet. Another development that's relevant is that scholars like me are now expected to make their data available. And we do that whenever possible.

Sometimes the data are proprietary, and so there's kind of a process that the analyst has to go through in order to get access to it to protect confidentiality, but certainly modern technology has facilitated data access in many domains that are relevant for the kind of research that I do. KIMBERLY: Thank you. All right. Tim Nazzaro at WHDH Television. Your line should be open. JOSH ANGRIST: Tim? KIMBERLY: Did you open there? You have to accept the invitation for me to open your line.

There you are. Tim, your line is open. Jill Shaw at Bloomberg, are you back in queue or is your hand just still raised? JILL SHAH: Oh, sorry, I will take that off.

I didn't realize it was on. [LAUGHS] Thanks. KIMBERLY: [LAUGHS] Sure. All right. So, Tim, I'm going to mute you.

You might be having some audio challenges on your end. We can't hear you. All right. OK.

So the AP is following up with a quick question. Your line is open. Christopher? CHRISTOPHER RUGABER: Yes. Hi. Sorry.

KIMBERLY: Well, hello! CHRISTOPHER RUGABER: Can you tell me where you're speaking from? If I missed that earlier, I'm sorry. JOSH ANGRIST: Christopher? CHRISTOPHER RUGABER: Yes. JOSH ANGRIST: Yes, I'm at home in Brookline. CHRISTOPHER RUGABER: OK. JOSH ANGRIST: I came back from the Cape. KIMBERLY: All right, it looks like WHDH came back in.

AMAKA UBAKA: Hi! Hello. Can you hear me? Hi, congratulations. My name is Amaka. I'm with 7 News. Just wondering, you may have already mentioned this, but what was your initial reaction when you found out that you won the Nobel Prize? And also, can you kind of take us through what you think you may do with some of the prize money? JOSH ANGRIST: Well, I haven't thought that far as to what I'll do with the money.

I live comfortably, so I hope I can find some useful way to spend it. Sorry, what was the first question, whether I was surprised? AMAKA UBAKA: What was your initial reaction? Did you receive a phone call? Kind of take us through that process. JOSH ANGRIST: Well, I got up. It's early in the morning, middle of the night, and I look at my phone, which is by my bed, but my phone doesn't ring when I'm asleep. But I do get to see that there's a lot of text messages, so then I felt like I should look into what's going on there. But I had missed the call from Sweden, and I had to call them back.

AMAKA UBAKA: And your initial reaction when you got that phone call? JOSH ANGRIST: I was thrilled of course, and honored, and surprised. I wasn't expecting that this morning. AMAKA UBAKA: Thank you. KIMBERLY: All right, so again, if anyone is watching at home and wants to send a question into,

that's questions plural, please feel free to do so. Also if any journalists in the queue, if your hand is raised and I have not called on you, just let me know. Amaka, are you asking again, or did your hand just get reraised? AMAKA UBAKA: Actually, I will ask a follow up.

JOSH ANGRIST: Sure. AMAKA UBAKA: You know, while we have you, because you said you were surprised but also elated. To people that may be in your position, that want to pursue-- you said you've spent over 30 years on all of this-- want to pursue your field, what would be your words of advice or inspiration to motivate future economists out there? JOSH ANGRIST: Well, that's a nice question. Of course I spend much of my time teaching as well as doing research, and I've talked to lots of future economists, and I think the most important thing is you have to love economics. I was seduced by economics from my first Principles of Economics course, which I guess I took in the fall of 1978 or '79, '78, probably. And I had an inspiring teacher, a man named Bob Paran, and it was all new to me.

I hadn't been exposed to economics in high school. I thought when I got to college I might major in psychology or something like that. So I had some interest in social science. But I loved my Econ 101 course. It was a whole way of looking at the world that just resonated with me, and I never stopped loving it.

So I would say you need that motivation. If you want to be a scholar, if you want to do scholarship and research for a living, That's a very long path before you get paid to do that. So you need some motivation for it. I think it requires discipline, and maybe some ability, but it especially requires a love for the field that you're studying.

You really have to enjoy engaging with it. AMAKA UBAKA: Thank you so much and congratulations again. JOSH ANGRIST: Thank you. KIMBERLY: We have a question from one of your fellow MIT friends. So John Kerrigan, Senior Lecturer at Sloan, asks, "What is the best natural experiment you and your team designed, and what is the insight? And congratulations."

JOSH ANGRIST: Thank you. Well, you know, John, they're like my children. I love them all equally I don't know if I want to pick one.

I have my favorites. One is the quarter of birth experiment that's in an early paper in my career, which was written with the late Alan Krueger, who was a collaborator and a friend of mine who very sadly died a few years ago. We use the fact that people born in different seasons of the year, as we called it, they're really quarters of the year, enter school at different ages. These are small differences in age, but if you're born late in the year you enter school a little younger. And that means that compulsory attendance laws will keep you in school a little longer before your 16th birthday when you're allowed to drop out.

And that variation in quarter of birth, which works through the interaction of compulsory attendance laws and age at school entry laws, that kind of echoes into people's schooling and then eventually their earnings. So Alan and I used that experiment, in quotes, natural experiment, to estimate the economic returns to schooling. So that's a favorite. Another favorite is the combination of same-sex sibships and twins, experiments that Bill Evans and I used in a paper on the effects of family size. Very briefly, we observed that among mothers of two children, in America, if you have two boys or two girls, that has a very large effect on the probability of going on to have a third child.

So the way to think of that is there are some cultures where there's son preference. So people aspire to have sons. You don't see that in America.

What Americans want is a diversified sibling's sex portfolio. So if you have two boys and two girls, you'd like to have one of the other kind. And since the sex of a child at birth is essentially randomly assigned, that's pretty close to a coin toss. That produces experimental variation in fertility. So there's two there. I could probably go on since I do love them all equally.

I did more recently work with Parag Pathak and other collaborators on the charter school question that I mentioned in response to the first question. That's super topical and controversial, so that that's very rewarding. We've gotten a lot of attention in the public policy sphere because of that work. KIMBERLY: So we have a number coming in from MIT Alumni, and right before we get to those, David at the Wall Street Journal, are you trying to ask a follow up or is your hand just still up? DAVID HARRISON: Oh yeah, I have a follow up.

Thank you. Thanks. So, as I understand it, correct me if I'm wrong, that you coined the term the credibility revolution to describe your work. Can you kind of tell us a little bit how that revolution has affected the field since then, how it's changed the field since then, and was economics sort of not credible before? And it's kind of tongue in cheek, but I mean, what made it more credible? JOSH ANGRIST: Yeah, just to fill everybody in on that, David, Steve Pischke and I, who was a longtime friend and collaborator, and my co-author on two textbooks, we wrote an essay in 2010 called "The Credibility Revolution in Empirical Economics."

That's what we were referring to. And we argued that empirical economics had gotten better and more convincing, in other words, more credible, by virtue of a shift towards this kind of search for natural experiments where there's something like a randomized trial out there that you can exploit and learn something useful in a very convincing way. And without disparaging earlier empirical work, I would say that the tradition until the 1980s, which is when these ideas were emerging, and many contributors, not just me. In particular, I would single out Orley Ashenfelter for promoting the idea that you need a good research design, and had a huge effect on early students, including me and Dave Carr. Anyway, the earlier work was more about models than questions.

A lot of early econometric work, particularly applied work, was sort of built around the idea that the analyst has a framework, a set of equations that describe the world. And the goal of the analyst is just fit those equations to the world and see how well they fit. Whereas the generation that I'm part of, and that I associate with, the credibility revolution, first of all, we sort of entered the arena with a specific question in mind, not necessarily a particular model of the process of how that question works. And then we had a strategy for answering that question using this idea of natural experiments and quasi experimental variation. Things like sibling sex composition, quarter of birth.

Sometimes we've used the rules that are embedded in a process. An example of that from my work is a paper with Victor Levy where we study the effects of reducing class size in Israel. And we exploit the fact that Israeli classes are split in two at integer multiples of 40. So if there's 40 kids in fifth grade, you're in a class of 40.

But if there's 41, they'll open a new class and your average class size falls in half. That cutoff that produces natural variation that's very useful for learning about causal effects. So that was sort of a different point of view. It was a different philosophy and a different set of tools. But David Card was of course doing this before I was doing it, and part of what I know about it I learned from him. KIMBERLY: Great question.

Thank you, David. So I have a couple from some alumni I'm going to read to you, Josh, if that's OK. So we have Elisa DiCaprio, former Course 11 graduate in 2007, asks, similar to what you heard before, a little bit of a different spin, "What's the most important outcome of your research for society at large? Is it that it changed a policy, or that it materially affected the population"? We also have Ramon Bueno, class of '74 and '77.

"What do you see as the main lasting impact on microeconomics of the work you and others have been doing with randomized trials, where applicable?" We have a few more, but let's start with those two. JOSH ANGRIST: Well, I would like to believe that I made two sorts of contributions. Some of the work that's had an impact is about building tools, and that's especially, I think, an appropriate way to think about the work with Guido Imbens. We developed a framework, a set of tools, really a new sort of notation for describing these natural experiments.

We expand on work by our collaborator, Don Rubin, who was also very influential in our careers and our thinking. Don had developed the potential outcomes framework and statistics, and we kind of expanded that to cover problems of interest to economists and econometricians. And that eventually became a whole framework for describing and understanding tools that are related to the method of instrumental variables, which is really the primary tool in the toolkit that he Guido Imbens and I developed.

So to the extent that these tools are used by other people, we have impact through them. And we've seen that the tools have been used by economists and by other social scientists. They're widely used in political science and psychology. Our tools also turn out to be relevant for clinical research in medicine. We have very simple solutions to problems of, for example, partial compliance in randomized trials.

So if you're running a randomized trial, sometimes not everybody in the treatment group gets treated. Sometimes there's crossovers in the control group. People in the control group end up getting treated, some people get treated for longer periods of time or at a higher dosage. We have a whole sort of set of solutions for that problem that I think of as a contribution maybe to the field of biometrics. So that's one type of contribution that I hope is lasting. The other is the actual empirical studies.

And our research on charter schools, I think, was influential in policy discussions about education reform. Lately I've been working with Parag Pathak and some of our graduate students at MIT, Clémence Idoux, for example, who's on the job market this year. We're studying elite education, and we've been arguing that a lot of the fight over access to selective public schools, like Boston Latin School, and some of you will know these legendary highly selective public schools. Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech in New York, Stuyvesant, and their schools like that in Chicago and the Washington area. People fight a lot about access to those kind of elite schools.

We have a growing body of work which shows that that is not really grounded in a clear understanding of the causal effects of what it means to go to those schools. So people who go to those very selective public schools tend to do well, but it's not because of their school attendance, it's because of the admissions process to those schools. So essentially, we're arguing that access to that type of school should not be at the top of the list of the policy concerns for somebody who wants to improve public education. So that sort of work has an influence a little bit. More recently, I would point to a study that David Autor and I have collaborated on with our former student Mandy Pallais.

Actually it is a randomized trial. So I do love to do randomized trials when I get the chance, and this one is very ambitious. I think it's the most ambitious study of post-secondary financial aid ever undertaken. It's a study funded by the Buffett Foundation based in Nebraska. The Buffett Foundation funds something like 10% of public university students in the state of Nebraska, and we work with them to evaluate that funding program through a carefully designed randomized trial.

It's carefully designed because it cannot disrupt this ongoing program which is so important to public education in the state of Nebraska, and yet. It has to be scientifically informative. So we had a lot of problems to solve there.

I think we solved them and produced very interesting findings that will be influential, we hope. KIMBERLY: Thank you. So I have a couple more from our web audience, and then we'll get a question in from Channel 12 News in Israel. So from one of our MIT DEDP master's students, Jannis Hamida, "Congratulations. Which of your current projects," and I think you started maybe to touch on this a little, "are you most excited about, and what does one strive towards after winning a Nobel Prize"? JOSH ANGRIST: Well that last thing, I guess I'll have to think about that.

That is a little worrying, what to do next. I should mention for the others who don't know or listening in, the DEDP is a development master's program based at MIT. It's a wonderful program. It was started by my former student and fellow Nobel Laureate, Esther Duflo and her fellow laureate Abhijit Banerjee.

It brings people to campus to complete a master's degree that they start online. I love teaching the DEDP students. They're so hardworking, and motivated, and enthusiastic, and they love economics just as much as I do. What am I most excited about? I'm very excited about the line of work that Parag Pathak and I have been pursuing on schools and how to exploit large urban districts admission processes. So many large urban districts in the United States today have a centralized admissions process.

Boston is a leading example. New York has something like this, Chicago, Denver, New Orleans, where kids can apply to any school in the city. And then there's a kind of matching process that goes on. And there are many aspects of this that are just fascinating. First of all, the match itself is economics come to life. It's the solution to a kind of a game theory problem about how to produce stable, satisfying matches which make everybody on both sides happy.

It makes students happy with the schools that they get assigned to and it makes the schools happy with the composition of their student bodies. So there's a lot of science and craft in the design of those systems. Parag specializes in that. The thing I find most interesting about them is the opportunity to learn about school effects and the consequences for different types of children of going to different types of schools. These centralized systems tend to have an element of random assignment buried deep in them, And at some work to extract that, and it's a problem that it's a challenge that Parag and I are trying to rise to. KIMBERLY: That's great.

So two more I'll give you, and then we'll go to news 12. So a former MIT executive education student, Jose Jerez, asks, "How do you think evidence backed decisions will prevail in a world where fake news and populism is rampant"? From alumnus Daniel Calcinato, "I enjoyed your econometric data science lessons and appreciated the fact that you always start with the funny video, occasionally playing the guitar. I'm curious to know how this idea started. Was it to relax yourself, or to help your students be more relaxed? I found it helpful." And then we'll get to you, Channel 12.

JOSH ANGRIST: What was the first question, Kimberly? I forgot. KIMBERLY: Oh golly! The fake news from Jose? JOSH ANGRIST: Well, I don't know. All that's worrying. There are many worrying things going on in the world. My sense is that there's still a market for scientific evidence in social science and that credible studies can be influential. I'm cautiously optimistic about that.

I think the other question was commenting on my teaching. So I begin every class with videos. Sometimes music, sometimes humor. I try to pick material that's related to the topic of the day.

It can be a little obscure. The challenge might then be to figure out what's the connection, to wake students up and get them to pay attention. KIMBERLY: I wish we had your guitar here today. We do try to keep it lively in our press briefings. JOSH ANGRIST: I don't necessarily play the guitar myself anymore though.

KIMBERLY: Oh, OK. A Question from Channel 12 News in Israel, "What may have led you to move to the US after having a family and a degree in Israel? Will you consider moving to Israel later on?" JOSH ANGRIST: Well, I did live in Israel for quite a while and for various periods of time. And I worked at Hebrew University in the 1990s for five years, and I we had a good life there, my family and I, Mira and our two children.

Bella and Noah. When I got the call from MIT, first I had visited at MIT, and then eventually I got the call to come and be on the faculty. That's the dream call for a young scholar. Nobody could really say no to that. Come to the finest department in the world and be a colleague there.

So I had to take that opportunity. KIMBERLY: So that might be a really nice segue into how we might want to close. Do we have some special guests who want to wave at us all and say hello, or no, are they not out there? Mira and-- JOSH ANGRIST: Oh sorry! On my end.

KIMBERLY: Bella! [LAUGHS] So everyone, we're going to have a little howdy. JOSH ANGRIST: One second, Kimberly. KIMBERLY: Well, everyone who's watching, while that's happening, thank you so much for all the kind words coming in through the questions at address. For those who don't answer today, we'll definitely share them so the professor sees your kind wishes.

And I hope everybody has enjoyed this time. And here we go. JOSH ANGRIST: Well, I don't know where they went, Kimberly.

KIMBERLY: Oh, well, there we go! JOSH ANGRIST: I think maybe they needed to get something to eat. KIMBERLY: They are snack attacking. Well-- JOSH ANGRIST: They lost interest in my answers.

KIMBERLY: Well, this was-- JOSH ANGRIST: In particular my granddaughter thought it was running a little long. KIMBERLY: Oh yes, well, in fact, we are right at our 45-minute mark, so I was just going to-- JOSH ANGRIST: Let me just be one second. KIMBERLY: Oh, OK, we're going to try one more time. So everyone, This is the great thing about virtual press briefings, is we get a little more spontaneity than in person, right, Marty? JOSH ANGRIST: Guys, they want [INAUDIBLE] quick. KIMBERLY: And journalists, if you're watching, we have images online and we'll have a few more later this afternoon.

JOSH ANGRIST: They're coming! They're coming! KIMBERLY: Oh, OK, our special guests are going to say hello. JOSH ANGRIST: They wanted get away from me, I think. They definitely lost their-- Come here, Bella Boo. Come here, come here, come here. I'll put you up and let you see everybody on Zoom. KIMBERLY: There we go.

JOSH ANGRIST: We only see Kimberly and Marty. Say hi. KIMBERLY: The world sees you, Bella. JOSH ANGRIST: That's my granddaughter, and I'm very proud of her. And I have a newborn grandson, and I'm just thrilled by that.

KIMBERLY: Well, this is just beautiful. And thank you for the words of optimism earlier, and thanks to everyone for joining us today. And I hope, Josh, you get some more time with your family and time to yourself today. JOSH ANGRIST: A little overwhelming. We're getting used to it. Thank you, guys.

Good to see you. KIMBERLY: And that's a wrap. Thanks again, everybody. You can email follow up

about any images or other material we have. Buh-bye. [MUSIC PLAYING]

2021-10-19 21:52

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