March 8, 2016

Heckman Receives Dan David Prize for Poverty Research

Nobel laureate James Heckman, director of the Center for the Economics of Human Development (CEHD) at the University of Chicago, received the Dan David Prize on February 11 for his research on poverty.

The international award is split into three time categories—past, present, and future—and each year, one field is chosen within each time category. Heckman is one of three recipients of the prize in the “Present: Combatting Poverty” category, along with esteemed economists Sir Anthony Atkinson from London and Francois Bourguignon in Paris.

Heckman’s current research focuses on the psychology and economics of human development, values, and characteristics. These characteristics go beyond intelligence as determined by scores on IQ and achievement tests, and include personality and health. Recent studies have looked into the impact a child’s early environment has on the child’s future success.

“We have found that recognizing that skill development starts at conception broadens and deepens understanding of effective policies to promote skills, alleviate poverty, and promote social mobility within and across generations,” Heckman said.

As director for the CEHD, Heckman is leading a group of graduate students and professional researchers who are studying topics related to human development, such as the impact of childhood education programs and the effect of education level on employment.

“The University of Chicago provides an unparalleled learning environment. It has established a vibrant community of scholars who challenge and support each other,” he said.

The laureates will be honored in Tel Aviv on May 22 and will each receive $1 million, 10 percent of which they must donate to post graduate students in their respective fields. Hickman will use his 10 percent to support the CEHD and research into the sources of social inequality.

The award was established in 2001 by philanthropist and businessman Dan David. Previous laureates have included Al Gore, Tony Blair, and Yo-Yo Ma. The other two categories for this year’s prize were nanotechnology, associated with the future, and social history, associated with the past.

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