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The Economic Approach

Unpublished Writings of Gary S. Becker

Edited by Julio J. EliasCasey B. Mulligan, and Kevin M. Murphy
With a Foreword by Edward L. Glaeser

A revealing collection from the intellectual titan whose work shaped the modern world.

As an economist and public intellectual, Gary S. Becker was a giant. The recipient of a Nobel Prize, a John Bates Clark Medal, and a Presidential Medal of Freedom, Becker is widely regarded as the greatest microeconomist in history.

After forty years at the University of Chicago, Becker left a slew of unpublished writings that used an economic approach to human behavior, analyzing such topics as preference formation, rational indoctrination, income inequality, drugs and addiction, and the economics of family.

These papers unveil the process and personality—direct, critical, curious—that made him a beloved figure in his field and beyond. The Economic Approach examines these extant works as a capstone to the Becker oeuvre—not because the works are perfect, but because they offer an illuminating, instructive glimpse into the machinations of an economist who wasn’t motivated by publications. Here, and throughout his works, an inquisitive spirit remains remarkable and forever resonant.

184 pages | 8 line drawings | 6 x 9

Economics and Business: Economics--General Theory and Principles, Economics--History


"Gary Becker is one of the greatest economists of all time. The Economic Approach is perhaps the best place to start dipping into his work."

Tyler Cowen | George Mason University

"What a tremendous book! Becker was a giant, with an extraordinary combination of intense focus and curiosity, and you can see his genius here. Be prepared to be surprised and illuminated—and to have some fun in the process.”

Cass R. Sunstein | author of "Too Much Information"

Table of Contents

Foreword by Edward Glaeser

1. Just the Beginning
Acceptance Speech at Bradley Award Ceremony, June 4, 2008
The Spirit of the University of Chicago, September 14, 2010

2. Accounting for Tastes
Preference Formation within Families, June 1992
Rational Indoctrination and Persuasion, March 2001
Some Notes on Drugs, Addiction, Families, and Public Policy, May 2000
Promotion Tournaments, Power, Earnings, and Gambling, July 1991

3. Household Production and Human Capital
Should the Military Pay for Training of Skilled Personnel? August 15, 1957
Further Reflections on the Allocation of Time, February 2014
The Insurance of Market and Nonmarket Human Capital, November 1980
On Whether Intergenerational Mobility Has Declined in US While Inequality Has Increased, March 2012
Derivation of Relation Between Schooling of Parents and Children and Inequality, April 2012

4. Income Inequality and the Public Sector
A Positive Theory of the Redistribution of Income, April 1978
A Note on Optimal First Best Taxation and the Optimal Distribution of Utilities, 1982

5. Family Economics
Economics and the Family, September 21, 1999

Chronological Academic Life of Gary S. Becker
Selected Writings about Gary S. Becker
Bibliography of Gary S. Becker
Dissertations Chaired by Gary S. Becker at Columbia University and the University of Chicago


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