Monday, September 12, 2011

A Return to the LSE

25 years ago I embarked on spending my junior year abroad at the London School of Economics. I arrived in London in September 1986 not knowing what to expect.  I knew that the LSE was a serious place but I had never met Ph.D. students before or lived in a major city as an adult (I attended rural Hamilton College).   As a 20 year old, I didn't know what "economic research" was or what economists actually did all day long.   I had a great year but I've never been back to England.  Unfortunately, time flies.  25 years have flown by and when I look at the webpages at LSE --- I see that my professors there are no longer there.

Later this week, I make my return.  I'm participating in the IGC's Growth Week and I'm grateful to my friend Enrico Moretti for giving me the opportunity to speak on monday and to my friend Henry Overman     for setting up a seminar for me that tuesday at the Geography and Environment department at LSE.

25 years ago, I played on the LSE's football team and there was a guy on our team who was getting a graduate degree in Geography at LSE and I used to kid him about what and the heck is geography. Was he just studying maps all day long? Little did I know that I would invest my time in working on this very subject.

The LSE was my first chance to see "the Big Leagues" and my experience there nudged me to work harder.  It was excellent preparation for the University of Chicago.  I remember studying econometrics there and arguing with a Ph.D. student in econometrics that the field made little sense because all parametric econometric models were mis-specified. I argued that the analyst could never know the true functional form and thus was estimating the wrong model.     Little did I know that this would be the basis for the rise of non-parametric econometrics.  I was ahead of my time but also a real smug idiot.     Some things do not change!

I remember the student activism at the LSE.  1986 was a time of deep concern about Apartheid in South Africa. I bought my brother a LSE t-shirt with a clenched fist that said ; "The LSE is Revolting".  We laughed at the double meaning.   I have many memories of my great year there.