Published on April 17, 2014

Economics professor Matthew Gentzkow was awarded the American Economic Association’s (AEA) 2014 John Bates Clark Medal, presented to an American economist under the age of forty who is judged to have made the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge.

Gentzkow, Richard O. Ryan Professor of Economics and Neubauer Family Faculty Fellow, was recognized for his work in the field of media economics, including studies of the effect of increased digitization on the press, the market forces that shape the creation of new forms of media, and links between media and levels of political polarization.

"Matt is an exceptional researcher, and it's great to see him receive this well-deserved recognition," said Sunil Kumar, dean and George Pratt Shultz Professor of Operations Management. "Matt is the most accomplished of a set of rising stars at Booth who are truly outstanding economists. We have the greatest expectations of him going forward."

The AEA Honors and Awards Committee said Gentzkow is a "productive young economist who applies frontier methods in empirics and theory to an important set of questions. His skills span the full range of the discipline. He has been a pioneer in the area of media economics, defining questions appropriate to the changing media landscape."

The Clark Medal is considered one of the two most prestigious awards in the field of economics, along with the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, and is named after the American economist John Bates Clark (1847–1938).

Other members of the University of Chicago community to win the award include Gary Becker, Milton FriedmanJim Heckman, Steve Levitt, and Kevin Murphy. Some 40 percent of Clark Medal winners go on to win the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. Past Clark Medalists who also won the Nobel include Becker, Friedman, Paul Krugman, and Kenneth Arrow.

The committee cited Gentzkow’s research in three areas:

• A first set of papers studies political bias in the news media. In “What Drives Media Slant? Evidence from U.S. Daily Newspapers” (Econometrica, 2010), Gentzkow and co-author Jesse Shapiro, Chookaszian Family Professor of Economics, use textual analysis of a large set of newspaper articles to classify content as more Republican or more Democrat. In “Ideological Segregation Online and Offline” (Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2011), Gentzkow and Shapiro look for evidence of the so-called internet “echo chamber,” where people of similar ideological bent talk solely to one another when they are online.

• A second set of papers explores the impact of television on society. “Television and Voter Turnout” (Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2006) measures the effect of television on voter turnout and shows that a significant fraction of the reduction in voter turnout over the last century can be explained by the introduction and the increased penetration of television. 

• A third set of papers explores questions of persuasion. In “Media Bias and Reputation,” authored with Shapiro (Journal of Political Economy, 2006), the authors highlight the incentives of news outlets to incorporate an ideological slant. With Emir Kamenica, professor of economics, Gentzkow authored a series of applied theory papers that tackles the question of how, in a game where a sender communicates private information to a receiver, a sender might choose to package information to influence how a receiver behaves. 

Gentzkow received an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship in 2009. He has also been awarded several National Science Foundation grants for research on media and Booth’s Faculty Excellence Award for teaching.

“He has thus emerged as a leader in a new generation of microeconomists applying economic methods to analyze questions that were historically analyzed by non-economists,” concluded the AEA.

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