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Jacob Mincer

Jacob Mincer
Born (1922-07-15)July 15, 1922
Tomaszów Lubelski, Poland
Died August 20, 2006(2006-08-20) (aged 84)
New York City, NY, U.S.
Nationality Polish-American
Institution NBER (1960–2006)
Columbia University (1959–91)
Field Labour economics
School or tradition
Chicago School of Economics
Alma mater Columbia University (Ph.D.)
Emory University (B.A.)
Influenced Gary Becker
Contributions Idea of human capital
Labour economics
Awards IZA Prize in Labor Economics (2002)

Jacob Mincer (July 15, 1922 – August 20, 2006), was a father of modern labor economics. He was Joseph L. Buttenwiser Professor of Economics and Social Relations at Columbia University for most of his active life.


  • Biography 1
  • Contributions to economic science 2
  • Awards and prizes 3
  • Quotes regarding Mincer 4
  • Notes 5
  • External links 6


Born in Tomaszów Lubelski, Poland, Mincer survived World War II prison camps in Czechoslovakia and Germany as a teenager. After graduating from Emory University in 1950, Mincer received his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1957.

Following teaching stints at City College of New York, Hebrew University, Stockholm School of Economics and the University of Chicago, Mincer joined Columbia's faculty where he stayed until his retirement in 1991. In his retirement, he especially enjoyed a cold glass of buttermilk on a hot summer day and entertaining his grandchildren by wiggling his ears.

Mincer was also a member of the National Bureau of Economic Research from 1960 through his death.

Mincer died at his Manhattan home on August 20, 2006 due to complications from Parkinson's disease, according to his wife, Dr. Flora Mincer, and his daughters, Deborah Mincer (Sussman) and Carolyn Mincer.

Contributions to economic science

Mincer was considered by many to be a father of modern labor economics.[1][2] As a leading member of a group of economists known as the Chicago School of Economics, Mincer and Nobel Laureate Gary Becker helped to develop the empirical foundations of human capital theory, consequently revolutionizing the field of labor economics.

During his academic career, Mincer authored four books and hundreds of journal articles, papers and essays. Mincer's ground-breaking work: Schooling, Experience and Earnings, published in 1974, used data from the 1950 and 1960 Censuses to relate income distribution in America to the varying amounts of education and on-the-job training among workers. "He calculated, for example, that annual earnings rose by 5 to 10 percent in the 1950s and 1960s for every year of additional schooling. There was a similar, although smaller, return on investment in job training—and age played a role."[3]

Mincer's work continues to have a profound impact on the field of labor economics. Papers in the field frequently use Mincerian equations, which model wages as a function of human capital in statistical estimation. And as a result of Mincer's pioneering work, variables such as schooling and work experience are now the most commonly used measures of human capital.

Awards and prizes

In 1991, Mincer received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Chicago which recognized his seminal work in the economic analysis of earnings and inequality, the labor force decisions of women and of job mobility. The citation for the degree also recognized Mincer's work in this area that has helped guide a generation of economists who study these important social questions.

In recognition of his lifetime achievements in economics, Mincer was awarded the first IZA Prize in Labor Economics of the Institute for the Study of Labor (Bonn, Germany). The $50,000 prize was presented to Mincer by more than 100 of his former students at a conference at Columbia University in 2002.

In 2004 Mincer received a Career Achievement Award from the University of Chicago's Society of Labor Economists; the annual award has subsequently become known as the Mincer Award.

Although Mincer was never awarded a Nobel Prize, because he was considered one of the world's greatest economists of the 20th century, he was nominated for the award numerous times by admiring colleagues.

Quotes regarding Mincer

..the decade Jacob and I spent working together was surely one of the most, if not the most exciting and fruitful in my life.
— Gary Becker, 2006[1]
The close blending of theory and data represented in Mincer's work has shaped the direction of labor economics and influenced and inspired all those who have followed him.
— David Card, 2006[3]
His very simple formulation basically fits the data for understanding how earnings are related to educational attainment in virtually every country in every time period.
— Lawrence F. Katz, 2006[3]


  1. ^ a b Shoshana Grossbard (ed.), Jacob Mincer, A Pioneer of Modern Labor Economics. New York: Springer, 2006.
  2. ^ "Remembered: Jacob Mincer, Father of Modern Labor Economics". Columbia News. September 1, 2006. 
  3. ^ a b c  

External links

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