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Dale W. Jorgenson ’55

June 8, 2022, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, from a long-lasting coronavirus infection.

A giant among economists, Dale conducted groundbreaking research on information technology and economic growth, energy and the environment, tax policy and investment behavior, and applied econometrics. He was the Samuel W. Morris University Professor Emeritus at Harvard University, and, as Harvard said of him, “sits comfortably in the pantheon of Harvard’s greatest economists.”

A common theme in Dale’s work was the adaptation of cutting-edge econometrics to the realities of the available data while solving important real-world problems.

Born in Bozeman, Montana, he attended public schools in Helena. He was a George F. Baker Scholar at Reed, where he wrote his thesis, “Location Theory and the Hypothesis of Metropolitan Dominance,” advised by Prof. Carl Stevens [economics 1954–90]. After receiving his PhD from Harvard, he began teaching at UC Berkeley, becoming a full professor in just four years at the age of 30. Berkeley was the leading economics department in the creation of advanced mathematical methods of equilibrium theory and their implications for economic measurement. In the hands of Dale and others, the marriage of these ideas and techniques was infused into the curriculum from the beginning of the PhD program.

By the late ’60s, the Harvard economics department realized it needed to join Berkeley at the forefront of these advances. Under the guidance of former Berkeley faculty members Richard Caves and Henry Rosovsky, two department chairs who themselves had moved from Berkeley to Cambridge, Dale was recruited by Harvard in 1969 and became the Frederic Eaton Abbe Professor of Economics.

Along with the hiring of other academic superstars, Dale’s arrival marked the beginning of a renaissance in Harvard economics. He brought the Berkeley first-year theory course with him, and it became a hallmark of Harvard’s program. He also played a leading role in Harvard’s econometrics training. In 2002, he was named a University Professor, Harvard’s highest faculty honor. He directed the program on technology and economic policy at the Kennedy School of Government and served as chairman of the Department of Economics from 1994 to 1997.

The focus of Dale’s applied work evolved over the ensuing decades, touching many areas of application, but its hallmark remained the integration of economic theory and econometrics, both at the highest level.

He authored nearly 300 articles in economics and was the author and/or editor of 24 books. His collected papers have been published in 10 volumes by the MIT Press, including Economic Growth in the Information Age (2002), which was the first major effort to quantify the impact of information technology on the U.S. economy.

In 1971, Dale received the John Bates Clark Medal of the American Economic Association, awarded every two years to an economist under the age of 40 for excellence in economic research. The citation read: “Dale has left his mark with great distinction on pure economic theory with, for example, his work on the growth of a dual economy, and equally on statistical method (with, for example, his development of estimation methods for rational distributed lags). But he is preeminently a master of the territory between economics and statistics, where both have to be applied to the study of concrete problems. His prolonged exploration of the determinants of investment spending, whatever its ultimate lessons, will certainly stand as one of the finest examples in the marriage of theory and practice in economics.”

Dale served as president of the American Economic Association and was named a Distinguished Fellow of the association. He was a founding member of the Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy of the National Research Council, and served as chairman of the board. He also served as chairman of Section 54, Economic Sciences, of the National Academy of Sciences and was president of the Econometric Society.

He was honored with membership in the American Philosophical Society, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was elected to fellowship in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Statistical Association, and the Econometric Society, and was awarded honorary doctorates by Uppsala University, the University of Oslo, Keio University, and the University of Mannheim.

Generous in his support of Reed, Dale helped to fund the Reed College Science Research Fellowship, created through the generosity of Reed alumni elected members of the National Academy of Sciences in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original scientific research. In 1986, he delivered the Walter Krause Lecture, which brings visitors to Reed to lecture on matters of public policy and/or international economics to the Griffin Society.

He is survived by his wife, generous supporter of Reed Linda Mubus, and two children, Eric and Kari.

Appeared in Reed magazine: June 2023

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