Deceased Academicians

Gary Stanley Becker


Gary Stanley Becker

Date of birth 02 December 1930

Place Pottsville, PA, (America)

Nomination 03 March 1997

Field Economics

Title Professor, Nobel laureate in Economic Sciences, 1992

Place and date of death Chicago, IL, USA † 03 May 2014

  • Biography
  • Publications
  • Commemoration

Most important awards, prizes and academies
Honors and awards: John Bates Clark Medal, American Economic Association (1964); Nobel Prize in Economics (1992); Lord Foundation Award (1995); Honorary Member, Gente Nueva, Mexico City (1996); Irene B. Taeuber Award for Excellence in Demographic Research, Population Association of America (1997); National Medal of Science (2000); Phoenix Prize, University of Chicago (2000); American Academy of Achievement (2001); Heartland Prize (2002); NICHD Hall of Honor (2003); Hayek Award (2003); Medal of the Italian Presidency (2004); John von Neumann Lecture Award, Rajk College, Corvinus Univ., Budapest (2004); Arrow Award for Best Article in Health Economics (2005); Provost's Teaching Award, University of Chicago (2006); Presidential Medal of Freedom (2007). Honorary degrees: Doctor Philosophiae Honoris Causa, Hebrew University, Jerusalem (1985); Doctor of Laws, Knox College, Galesburg, IL (1985); Doctor of Arts, University of Illinois at Chicago (1988); Doctor of Sciences, SUNY at Stony Brook, NY (1990); Doctor of Humane Letters, Princeton University (1991); Doctor Philosophiae Honoris Causa, University of Palermo, Italy; University of Buenos Aires, Argentina (1993); Doctor Honoris Causa Scientiarum Oeconomicarum, Warsaw School of Economics (1995); Doctor Honoris Causa, University of Economics, Prague (1995); Doctor of Business Administration, University of Miami (1995); Doctor of Science, University of Rochester (1995); Doctor of Humane Letters, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY (1997); Doctor of Humane Letters, University d'Aix-Marseilles (1999); Doctor Honoris Causa, University of Athens (2002); Doctor of Laws, Harvard University (2003); Doctor Honoris Causa, Hitotsubashi University (2005). Academies: Founding Member, National Academy of Education (1965, Vice-President 1965-67); Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1972); Member, National Academy of Sciences (1975); Member, American Philosophical Society (1986); Pontifical Academy of Sciences (1997); Corresponding Member, National Academy of Sciences of Buenos Aires (2000).

Summary of scientific research
Gary Stanley Becker's research interests have been wide-ranging and have covered a broad spectrum of interests ranging from human capital and the economics of discrimination to general economic theory and the economic approach to human behaviour. He has also concentrated on such subjects as the family, accounting for tastes and the economics of life. A detailed specialist, he has also sought a wide audience for his discipline and his thought. Prof. Becker is a prominent 'savant', recognised and appreciated with universally high respect by the members of the world's communities of economists and experts in public policy.

Main publications
Becker, G.S., Murphy, K.M., Social Economics, Harvard University Press (2000); Becker, G.S., Familie, Gesellschaft und Politik (Family, Society and State), J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck)(1996); Becker, G.S., The Economics of Life, McGraw-Hill, Inc. (1996), translations: Chinese (1997), German, Japanese (1998), Czech (1997), Spanish (2002), Polish (2006); Becker, G.S., Accounting for Tastes, Harvard University Press (1996), translations: Czech (1998), Chinese (1999), Italian (2000); Becker, G.S., A Treatise on the Family, Harvard University Press (1981), expanded edition (1991), translations: Spanish (1987), Chinese (1988, 2000); Becker, G.S., The Economic Approach to Human Behavior, University of Chicago Press (1976), translations: German (1982), Polish (1990), Chinese (1993), Romanian (1994), Italian (1998); Becker, G.S., Essays in Labor Economics in Honor of H. Gregg Lewis, (ed.), Special Supplement to the Journal of Political Economy 84, n. 2, part 2 (August 1976); Becker, G.S., The Allocation of Time and Goods Over the Life Cycle, with Gilbert Ghez, Columbia University Press for the National Bureau of Economic Research (1975); Becker, G.S., Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment (with W.M. Landes, eds.), Columbia University Press for the National Bureau of Economic Research (1974); Becker, G.S., Economic Theory, A. Knopf (1971), Japanese translation (1976); Becker, G.S., Human Capital and the Personal Distribution of Income: An Analytical Approach, University of Michigan (1967); Becker, G.S., Human Capital, Columbia University Press (1964), 2nd edition (1975), 3rd edition (1993), University of Chicago Press, translations: Japanese (1975), Spanish (1984), Chinese (1987, 2008), Romanian (1997), Italian (2007); Becker, G.S., The Economics of Discrimination, Univ. of Chicago Press (1957); 2nd edition (1971).

Professor Gary S. Becker became a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in 1997 upon appointment by Pope John Paul II. He was an economist of enormous intellectual influence, who fundamentally changed the way economists chose their themes and apply theories and methodology. His novel ways of thinking were influential beyond the economics profession, reaching out into sociology, psychology, and political science.  

Becker identified the key role economic behavior plays in people’s lives, be it family-related decisions, marriage and divorce, fertility, education, health, addictions, crime, and many more. At the time when Becker initiated his micro-economic research into such themes, this was completely new approach. Now it is mainstream. 

The insights from applying economics to market- and non-market behavior are of great relevance for society and policy making. Becker received the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 1992 “for having extended the domain of micro-economic analysis to a wide range of human behavior and interaction, including non-market behavior”. 

His doctoral research on “The Economics of Discrimination” identified the adverse effects of racism for businesses, and the advantages of competitive forces for discouraging discrimination, and thus becoming supportive of tolerance. The useful contributions of competition for social advancement remained an important theme of Becker’s work. 

Becker saw individual behavior driven by rational choices which he has written extensively about   in one of his “most noteworthy” (Nobel Prize Committee) books on “Human Capital”, published in 1964. He traced the drivers of investment in formal education, and the effects of education and firm based training on human capital.

Among his many important books “A treatise on the Family” (1981) may be one of his most relevant. The investment in child quality versus quantity, and the role of women’s education for their value of time and implications for fertility are breakthrough contributions to fields of discussions that had suffered for a long pre-Becker time from a lack of concept and theory with adverse effects for policy. Maybe his findings on the key role of girls’ education for development and reduction of fertility was his most influential research impacting on the whole humanity and on girls in many countries. 

This work also influenced the deliberations of the Pontifical Council for the Family at its international meeting on “The Family and Economy in the Future of Society” in 1996. Gary S. Becker gave the keynote speech. Some recommendations from the conference seem to have a clear link to him, such as, “economic policies should promote the effective freedom necessary to enter marriage and found a family”, and “the income of women working in the home can and should be included in national income statistics, to demonstrate the massive contribution made to the economy”, and “families must be freed from the financial burden of education. Some practical means are voucher systems, tax relief for parents, private scholarships and loans for students”, and “population policies must take account of economic realities and the need for human capital in any developing economy”. 

Becker studied at Princeton University, University of Chicago, and has been a Professor at Columbia University (1957-1969) and University of Chicago (1970-2014). He was married to Doria Slote till 1970 and they have two daughters; in 1980 he married Guity Nashat, with two step sons. 


Joachim von Braun