Alan Krueger speaks at The White House when he served under the Obama administration.

The New York Times / Doug Mills

Alan Krueger speaks at The White House when he served under the Obama administration.

March 21, 2019

Famed Economist and Cornell Alumnus Alan Krueger ’83 Dies

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Famed former White House economist Alan Krueger ’83 died at the age of 58 on Saturday. According to a statement released by his family, Krueger died by suicide.

The Cornell alumnus gained widespread recognition through his study of labor economics, revolutionizing the subject through his data-based approach. Krueger served under both President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama during their time in the White House.

Krueger grew up in Livingston, N.J., before attending Cornell. In 1983, he graduated with a degree in Industrial and Labor Relations with honors. He went on to study at Harvard, earning a Master’s degree and a Ph.D. in economics in 1985 and 1987, respectively.

His talent as an economist was evident even during his early years, according to Prof. Ronald Ehrenberg, labor economics. Ehrenberg said in a written statement to The Sun that, years ago, Krueger came up to him after a guest lecture at Harvard and corrected something he’d said.

Ehrenberg said that at that moment, he knew Krueger was “surely going to tower over all of his former professors in a short period of time.”

In 1987, four years out of Cornell, Krueger became an assistant professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School. Five years later, he became the Bendheim Professor of Economics and Public Policy, a position he held for the rest of his life.

As a researcher in labor economics, Krueger played a significant role in revolutionizing the field by moving away from theory and instead utilizing empirical data in his work. His work “really changed the shape of economics and turned it into a more serious science,” Harvard professor Lawrence Katz told The New York Times.

His most famous work was a study on minimum wage, detailed in his book, Myth and Measurement: The New Economics of the Minimum Wage. The study, co-authored by Princeton professor David Card, refutes the theory that increasing minimum wage causes a decline in employment for minimum-wage workers.

“His research arguably did more to change how we view the economy than that of any other modern economist,” New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote in an op-ed tribute to Krueger.

Krueger served as the chief economist of the Department of Labor from 1994-1995 during the Clinton administration. Under President Obama, Krueger was appointed the assistant secretary for economic policy and chief economist of the US Department of the Treasury from 2009 to 2010. He then became part of President Obama’s Cabinet, serving as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors.

“Alan was someone who was deeper than numbers on a screen and charts on a page. He saw economic policy not as a matter of abstract theories, but as a way to make people’s lives better,” former President Obama said in a statement.

Support services are available to all members of the Cornell community. Students may consult with counselors from Cornell Health by calling 607-255-5155. Students may speak with a peer counselor by calling EARS at 607-255-3277. Employees may call the Faculty Staff Assistance Program at 607-255-2673. For additional resources, visit caringcommunity.cornell.edu.