Campus & Community

Guido Imbens, ‘distinguished econometric theorist,’ joins faculty in July

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Guido Imbens, widely considered among the most creative, productive, and influential econometricians of the past two decades, has been appointed professor of economics in Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), effective July 1.

Imbens, 42, a native of Eindhoven, the Netherlands, is currently professor of economics and of agricultural and resource economics at the University of California, Berkeley, where he has taught since 2002.

“Professor Imbens is a distinguished econometric theorist, applied econometrician, and empirical researcher with tremendous intellectual breadth,” says William C. Kirby, Edith and Benjamin Geisinger Professor of History and dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “His methodological contributions have had a great impact on research practice in fields including, labor economics, public finance, and development economics. He is also an energetic and generous colleague and an adviser who is full of ideas. He will be a fantastic resource for our undergraduates and graduate students.”

Because of limitations on their real-world experiments, social scientists have long had difficulty identifying the causal impact of specific interventions such as drugs, training programs, or monetary policy changes on outcomes such as health, earnings, and inflation. Imbens’ scholarly contributions have greatly improved social scientists’ ability to assess the effects of interventions from both field and experimental data.

Recognizing the difficulty of pinpointing causal effects in empirical social science research, Imbens and colleagues pioneered the concept of local average treatment effect (LATE), which allows researchers to better compare outcomes for individuals receiving experimental intervention versus those receiving no added treatment. The LATE idea has had a significant impact on research practices and methodology in econometrics and other areas of statistics, with some of Imbens’ papers ranking among the most cited economics research of the 1990s.

Imbens has extended, refined, and applied LATE in his subsequent work, including a study of lottery winners to estimate income effects on labor supply, and analyses of the impact of training programs and medical treatments. He and his colleagues have also generalized the framework to account for models with variable treatments, such as drug dosage, years of schooling, or weeks of training.

Imbens was an undergraduate at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam (the Netherlands), and holds master’s degrees awarded by the University of Hull (United Kingdom) in 1986 and Brown University in 1989, and a Ph.D. received from Brown in 1991. He was an assistant professor at Harvard from 1990 to 1994 and an associate professor from 1994 to 1997, when he was appointed professor of economics at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he remained until 2002. Imbens was an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow from 1995 to 1998 and has won or been nominated for teaching awards at both Harvard and Berkeley.