Susan Athey Named President of American Economic Association

Stanford scholar Caroline Hoxby selected as vice president.

October 07, 2021

| by Krysten Crawford
Susan Athey. Credit: Tricia Seibold

Susan Athey | Tricia Seibold

The American Economic Association, the country’s oldest and most prestigious professional organization in the field of economics, has named Stanford’s Susan Athey as its next president and Caroline Hoxby as a vice president.

Athey, PhD ’95, the Economics of Technology Professor at Stanford GSB and senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), is known for her leading work into the economic impacts of the digital age. In serving as the American Economic Association (AEA) president — one of the profession’s highest honors — Athey becomes the eighth Stanford economist to lead the 136 year-old association with roughly 23,000 members.

Hoxby, the Scott and Donya Bommer Professor of Economics at the Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences and also a SIEPR senior fellow, is a leading expert in the economics of education.

“Susan and Caroline are both superstars in the field who will be extraordinary leaders at the AEA,” said Mark Duggan, the Trione Director of SIEPR and the Wayne and Jodi Cooperman Professor of Economics. “I am incredibly honored to be their colleague and very grateful for their many contributions to SIEPR’s mission. I’m thrilled that the AEA will benefit from their expertise as well.”

Athey and Hoxby will serve one-year terms starting early next year. Joining Hoxby as vice-president of the AEA will be David Autor, an economics professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and frequent co-author with Duggan on health economics research.

As the AEA president, Athey says she will work to address challenges within the economics profession, including issues around inclusivity.

“As we hopefully emerge from the pandemic,” she says, “the association can consider new opportunities to expand the pipeline into the profession, build community, and engage the full range of talent the profession has to offer.”

Athey also plans to address how best to communicate and disseminate research in the digital age. “It is an exciting time to take on this leadership role,” she says.

A “Tech Economist” Takes the Helm

Athey, who taught at MIT and Harvard before joining Stanford’s faculty in 2013, knows a lot about the intersection of digitization and economics. As one of the profession’s first “tech economists,” she has contributed pioneering work on the effects of online marketplaces and digital platforms. Her research has touched on everything from timber auctions and virtual currencies to the news media and online advertising. She is an associate director of the Stanford Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence Institute (HAI), and the founding director of Stanford GSB’s Golub Capital Social Impact Lab.

The AEA presidency marks the second top honor that Athey has received from the association. In 2007, she became the first woman to receive its John Bates Clark Medal, which is considered one of the profession’s most prestigious awards and is given biannually to economists under the age of 40. She also served as an AEA vice president in 2018.

In 1995, the year Athey earned her PhD in economics from Stanford, she was the subject of a New York Times article about the intense competition in academia for fresh economics talent. Citing two dozen interested universities, the paper dubbed her “the top draft pick” of the year.

Emphasis on Education

Hoxby, meanwhile, is one of the world’s leading scholars on the economics of education. Her research has examined school choice, school finance, the college education market, teacher unionization, and university finance and financial aid. Her study of New York City’s charter schools is the largest randomized evaluation of how charter schools affect achievement.

A PhD graduate of MIT, she taught at Harvard as its only African American economics professor with tenure before moving to Stanford in 2007. She is the director of the Economics of Education Program at the National Bureau of Economic Research and a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution.

In her career, Hoxby has prioritized mentoring young economists and improving diversity around race, ethnicity, and gender. “I believe that our profession will be strengthened if it feels like a welcoming and supportive environment for people of all backgrounds,” she has said.

Hoxby is a principal investigator of the Expanding College Opportunities project, a randomized controlled trial that had dramatic effects on low-income, high achievers’ college choices. For work related to this project, she received the Smithsonian Institution’s Ingenuity Award. Her research in this area began with a demonstration that low-income high achievers usually fail to apply to selective colleges — despite the fact that they are extremely likely to be admitted and receive such generous financial aid that they usually pay much less to attend selective colleges than they do to attend non-selective schools.

Previously published on Oct 5, 2021 by the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.

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