March 29, 2001
Vol. 20 No. 13

current issue
archive / search

    Sherwin Rosen, Distinguished Service Professor in Economics, dies at 62

    Sherwin Rosen, a leading labor economist and president of the American Economics Association, died Saturday, March 17, at the University’s Bernard Mitchell Hospital. He was 62.

    Rosen, the Edwin A. and Betty L. Bergman Distinguished Service Professor in Economics, was a microeconomist with special interests in industrial organization as well as labor economics. His research included important theoretical and empirical work that helped economists understand how a wide variety of different forces influence such items as the prices of homes and the salaries of celebrities.

    “He was one of our best and deepest thinkers in the economics profession,” said Edward Lazear, professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Rosen’s colleague.

    “Sherwin thought about issues such as income inequality at a really deep level. It wasn’t that people haven’t thought about the topics before, but where others scratched the surface, Sherwin was able to crack the problem,” Lazear added.

    Rosen developed models that helped explain, for instance, why houses that appear to be similar in many ways can have vastly different values, depending on their quality and location.

    “Like his work on houses, he also found that a wide variety of factors influence people’s incomes. He made clear, for instance, that the very large salaries that star athletes are able to make are not capricious acts of society, but rather something that is a predictable outcome of economic forces,” Lazear said.

    Rosen explored the salary potentials of celebrities in a paper “The Economics of Super Stars,” published in 1981. In the paper, he discussed how talent and the scale of the market have an influence on the amount of money individual athletes and performers are able to make, Lazear said.

    Rosen carried on his analysis to look at other differences in income that are a result of a diverse set of factors, said Gary Becker, Professor in Economics. He also explored how those differences influenced the differentials between the salaries received by men and women, Becker added.

    “Sherwin Rosen was one of the leading economists of his generation,” Becker said. “He was a crucial member of the Department of Economics, and his contributions of wisdom and wit will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him.”

    Lars Hansen, the Homer Livingston Professor and Chairman of Economics said, “Sherwin Rosen was a distinguished and creative scholar whose kindness and generosity will be deeply missed by his colleagues and students. He was a true friend.”

    Rosen received a B.S. from Purdue University in Economics in 1960, an A.M. in economics from Chicago in 1962 and a Ph.D. in Economics from Chicago in 1966.

    He joined the faculty of the University of Rochester in 1964 and was named the Kenan professor of Economics there in 1975. He returned to Chicago as Professor in Economics in 1977 and was named to the Bergman professorship in 1983. He became a Distinguished Service Professor in 1992, and from 1988 to 1994, he chaired the Department of Economics.

    Rosen wrote numerous papers that became staples in labor economics. His work formed the foundation of much of modern empirical economics, Lazear said. He also was the author, editor or co-editor of four books: A Disequilibrium Model of Demand for Factors of Production (1973), Studies in Labor Markets (1981), Organizations and Institutions: Sociological and Economic Approaches to the Analysis of Social Structures (1988) and Implicit Contract Theory (1994).

    A member of many distinguished organizations, he was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Econometric Society. He also was a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

    His wife, Sharon, and two daughters, Jennifer Lynn and Adria Jill Rosen Zurita, survive him.