The Golden Age of Nobel Economists

The American Economist, Vol. 43, No. 2, pp. 17-35, Fall 1999

17 Pages Posted: 9 Feb 2004

See all articles by Hendrik P. van Dalen

Hendrik P. van Dalen

Tilburg University, CentER; Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI)


This paper examines the productivity record of economists who have dominated economic science in the twentieth century, viz. the Nobel laureates in economics. They generally start their career at a very young age, they were at the right place at the right time, and they possessed an independent mind. Their most important and creative contributions are written between the ages of 29 and 38. The average creative age of Nobel economists is slightly below that of laureates in physics, and considerably younger than that of laureates in chemistry and medicine/biology. The University of Chicago and the US in general has so far turned out the best breeding ground for original economists. Furthermore, most fundamental work has been written alone and this finding contrasts sharply with the dominant trend in economics where multi-authored publications have become the rule.

Keywords: Nobel prize, economics, age, productivity

JEL Classification: A11, A14, B20, J24

Suggested Citation

van Dalen, Hendrik P., The Golden Age of Nobel Economists. The American Economist, Vol. 43, No. 2, pp. 17-35, Fall 1999. Available at SSRN:

Hendrik P. Van Dalen (Contact Author)

Tilburg University, CentER ( email )

Tilburg University
P.O. Box 90153
Tilburg, NL-5000 LE
+13 4668982 (Phone)


Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI) ( email )

P.O. Box 11650
NL-2502 AR The Hague
+70 356 5237 (Phone)
+70 364 7187 (Fax)


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