MIT economist David Autor has been named to the 2019 class of Andrew Carnegie Fellows, a high-profile honor for scholars pursuing research in the social sciences and humanities.
The fellowship is provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, which announced its newest set of honorees this morning. This year, 32 Carnegie fellowship recipients were selected from more than 300 applicants. The winners receive up to $200,000 to support a research sabbatical.
Autor, the Ford Professor of Economics at MIT, told MIT News he was “honored” simply to have been nominated for the fellowship. He called the news of the award itself “awesome” and said it would give him “a huge boost of confidence” for a new research project he is undertaking about shifting demographics, the growing urban-rural split in the contemporary economy, and the political implications of these changes.
During his year as a Carnegie fellow, Autor will be working on a project he calls “Depopulism: How the Inversion of the Rural-Urban Age Gradient Shapes the Diverging Economic and Political Geography of the U.S. and other Industrialized Countries.” It is well-known that the average age in many industrial Western countries has risen in the last several decades; however, little attention has been paid to the geography of this phenomenon.
In 1950, Autor notes, “low-density towns and rural areas were demographically among the youngest places in the country, while dense urban areas were among the oldest.” But over time, and especially after 1980, he adds, “population density reversed sign,” as the populations of lower-density towns and rural areas aged rapidly, while urban populations did not.
“These stark differential shifts in age structures augur substantial but largely unrecognized consequences for the distribution of prosperity across people and places, the relative dynamism or stasis of cities and towns, and the political divides between urban and nonurban voters,” Autor says.
While looking at the demographic and economic dynamics behind this trend in the U.S., Autor will also examine the demographics of other industrialized countries and analyze the relationship between economic geography, inequality, and political polarization.
Autor has been a member of the MIT faculty since 1999. He has developed a broad portfolio of research in labor economics, including studies about the polarization of the U.S. job market, the effects of global trade on jobs and economic geography, the impact of jobs programs and other interventions on workers, the U.S. disability insurance system, and the effects of automation on work.
Other MIT faculty who have received the Carnegie fellowship in recent years include economist Daron Acemoglu and political scientists Taylor Fravel, Richard Nielsen, and Charles Stewart.