'Giant of Economics' Gary Becker Dies

Nobel-winner used economics to address social issues

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted May 5, 2014 12:27 AM CDT

(Newser) – Gary Becker, widely considered one of the 20th century's most important economists for his work using economics to address social issues, has died at the age of 83. The University of Chicago professor, who won the 1992 Nobel in economics, used what he called "economic analysis" for insight into issues like crime, addiction, family life, and discrimination, Bloomberg reports. In some of his early work, he likened racial or sexual discrimination to a "tax" that hurt biased people as well as those they were discriminating against.

In his Nobel Prize lecture, Becker explained his belief that human behavior is too complicated to be explained by simple self-interest, and that "we'll never have Utopia" because while goods and services may become more abundant, time is still limited to 24 hours a day, Business Insider reports. "He just pushed economics in so many different directions," a professor of economics at the Chicago Booth School of Business tells the Chicago Tribune. "He believed that economics was helpful to understanding and improving people’s lives and that's how he did his research and that's how he taught."

This Dec. 10, 1992 photo shows Becker, left, receiving the 1992 Nobel Economics Prize from Sweden's King Carl Gustaf.
This Dec. 10, 1992 photo shows Becker, left, receiving the 1992 Nobel Economics Prize from Sweden's King Carl Gustaf.   (AP Photo/Tobbe Gustavsson,File)
This Aug. 6, 1996 photo shows Gary S. Becker, a Nobel Prize winning economist and sociologist from the University of Chicago, answering a reporter's question during a briefing.
This Aug. 6, 1996 photo shows Gary S. Becker, a Nobel Prize winning economist and sociologist from the University of Chicago, answering a reporter's question during a briefing.   (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia, File)
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