Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Academics Who Leave Cambridge to Go West: A Growing Group

Where is the "epi-center" of academic economics these days? With the rise of blogs, webpages and .pdf files, does location matter less for one's productivity than in the past? Cambridge always has excellent graduate students and the next generation has plenty of energy, ambition and excitement for the subject. I look forward to heading back to Cambridge next month for the NBER meetings but at the tender age of 41, I don't feel the strong urge to live and work at "ground zero".

Clearly, I'm not alone. Stanford's gross faculty flows are high. They exported Athey and imported Caroline. Is that an even trade? I will let other bloggers debate that!


Star Economics Prof To Leave for Stanford

Hoxby announces decision after university extends tenure offer to husband, source says

Published On 6/11/2007 12:54:32 AM


Crimson Staff Writer

Caroline M. Hoxby '88, one of the foremost researchers of the economics of education and one of the Harvard Economics Department's most popular undergraduate teachers, will depart for Stanford this year, according to an e-mail obtained by The Crimson.

Hoxby, who has been a professor at Harvard for the past 13 years and has been tenured for the past 10, is the only black individual tenured in the Economics Department, and one of only two women. [SEE CORRECTION BELOW]

She is renowned for her pioneering—and controversial—research into the benefits of charter schools and school vouchers, and is often credited with employing novel methods to test whether increased competition among schools can raise student achievement.

Hoxby's decision came after her husband of 14 years, Associate Professor of History and Literature Blair G. Hoxby '88, received a tenure offer from Stanford, according to a Harvard economics professor.

Hoxby said in her e-mail to her Economics Department colleagues that she would miss Harvard, but that she is heading to Stanford with "great enthusiasm."

"You have not just been great colleagues, but the best possible colleagues," Hoxby wrote. "It has been an honor to work with people who are dedicated to economics, to advancing the field, and to training the best students anywhere on earth."

Hoxby could not be reached for comment on Sunday. The Crimson granted anonymity to the professor because the individual’s relationship with the Hoxbys would be compromised if the source were named.

In her e-mail, Hoxby praised the chairman of the Economics Department, James H. Stock, for "trying to ensure that the Harvard situation worked out for us," a possible reference to her husband's bid for tenure in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS).

"Many people in the department, other departments in the FAS, and other schools in the University have also been concerned about the situation and have expressed their concern to me and/or the administration in emails, in telephone calls, and in person," Hoxby wrote. "I am deeply grateful for the concern and the support we've been lent."

Both Blair and Caroline Hoxby lived in Eliot House as undergraduates and attended Oxford on Rhodes scholarships. Blair Hoxby, who has spent most of his career at Yale, served as a fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center in the 2004-2005 academic year.

In 2005, Hoxby publicly announced that she was considering leaving Harvard to accept a tenure offer at Stanford. Her announcement came in the middle of a tense time for the University as professors, including Hoxby, criticized former University President Lawrence H. Summers' management of Harvard. Hoxby, a member of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences' highest governing body, the Faculty Council, and one of the few critics of Summers in the Economics Department, said at the time that the academic environment at Harvard—not the president's remarks—would influence her decision to stay or leave.

Since Hoxby first arrived at Harvard in the fall of 1984, she has spent virtually her entire adult life in Cambridge. She received her doctorate from MIT in 1994, four years after returning from Oxford, and was immediately hired by Harvard as an assistant professor.

Over the past 13 years, Hoxby has left a wide trail at Harvard.
She has published very influential research on the benefits of school choice, arguing through technical empirical papers that schools perform better if parents have viable alternatives to which they can send their children. This research has made her a star in the economics profession and a darling to many conservative supporters of charter schools and vouchers, even though her own father served in the Carter administration.

Despite Hoxby's stardom, or perhaps because of it, one of her most important papers became the subject of a vitriolic academic dispute two years ago when an assistant professor of economics at Princeton, Jesse M. Rothstein '95, accused Hoxby of making a number of programming errors in her research that he said undermined her results. Hoxby disputed Rothstein's findings, calling the criticisms entirely baseless and suggesting that they were motivated by "race and gender bias."

In addition to her research, Hoxby has also emerged as one of the Economics Department's most sought-after teachers. Students must apply to her often over-subscribed course on the economics of education, and this past year, the course received a 4.5 out of 5 in the CUE guide, while Hoxby received a 4.9 out of 5 for her teaching performance. In 2005, Hoxby was named a Harvard College professor—a distinction earned for undergraduate instruction—and in 2006, she won the Phi Betta Kappa Prize for Excellence in Teaching.

—Staff writer Paras D. Bhayani can be reached at pbhayani@fas.harvard.edu.

CORRECTION: The June 11 online story "Star Economics Prof To Leave for Stanford" incorrectly stated that Caroline M. Hoxby '88 was one of two tenured women in the Economics Department. In fact, Hoxby is one of three—the other two are Lee Professor of Economics Claudia Goldin and Professor of Economics Susan C. Athey, who arrived in 2006. Hoxby was the second woman to be tenured in the department.