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Noah Smith

A Rare Prize for an Economist Looking at the Big Picture

The John Clark Bates Medal almost never goes to a macroeconomist. Emi Nakamura is a worthy exception.

We have a winner.

We have a winner.

Photographer: Graham Morrison, Bloomberg/American Economic Association


The John Bates Clark medal is arguably the most exclusive award in the field of economics. It’s given to only one economist each year — unlike the Nobel prize, which often is shared among several (though the Clark medal is only for Americans). And one must be under age 40 to receive it. This year’s prize goes to Emi Nakamura of the University of California-Berkeley, an undisputed star in the field of macroeconomics.

Unlike the Nobel, it’s rare for a macroeconomist to get the Clark medal. Arguably the last winner whose research dealt mainly with the business cycle was Lawrence Summers, who received the prize all the way back in 1993. For at least the past two decades, macroeconomics has tended to be a discipline ruled by consensus and by incremental innovations, with few standout geniuses. Nakamura is a rare exception.