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Director's Lecture

Anne Case: “The Great Divide: Education, Despair and Death”


Event Summary

Photo by Max Herman

Deaths of despair, morbidity, and emotional distress continue to rise in the US, largely borne by those without a college degree, the majority of American adults, for many of whom the economy and society are no longer delivering. All-cause mortality in the US is diverging by education in a way not seen in other rich countries. How did we get here? At this lecture distinguished economist Anne Case discussed the economic and political forces that have shaped the current landscape and examine the collision of two epidemics: deaths of despair and COVID-19.


Anne Case


Anne Case is the Alexander Stewart 1886 Professor of Economics and Public Affairs, Emeritus at Princeton University, where she continues to teach in the School of Public and International Affairs. Case has written extensively on health over the life course. She has been awarded the Kenneth J. Arrow Prize in Health Economics from the International Health Economics Association, for her work on the links between economic status and health status in childhood, and the Cozzarelli Prize from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for her research on midlife morbidity and mortality. Dr. Case currently serves on the Committee on National Statistics. She is a Research Associate of the NBER, a Fellow of the Econometric Society, and is an affiliate of the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit at the University of Cape Town. She also is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. Her most recent book, Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism, co-written with Angus Deaton (winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in economics), was published in 2020.

Katherine Baicker


Dean and Emmett Dedmon Professor, Harris School of Public Policy

A leading scholar in the economic analysis of health policy, Katherine Baicker focuses primarily on the factors that drive the distribution, generosity, and effectiveness of public and private health insurance, with a particular focus on health insurance finance and the effect of reforms on the distribution and quality of care. She is currently one of the leaders of a research program investigating the many effects of expanding health insurance coverage in the context of a randomized Medicaid expansion in Oregon. Her research has been published in journals such as The New England Journal of Medicine, Science, Health Affairs, and The Quarterly Journal of Economics. She has served as chair of the Massachusetts Group Insurance Commission, chair of the Board of Directors of AcademyHealth, commissioner on the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, and a nonresident senior fellow of the Brookings Institution. From 2005 to 2007, she served as a Senate-confirmed member of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, in which she played a leading role in the development of health policy.

Erik Hurst


Frank P. and Marianne R. Diassi Distinguished Service Professor of Economics and John E. Jeuck Faculty Fellow, Chicago Booth; Deputy Director, Becker Friedman Institute

Erik Hurst is a macroeconomist whose work focuses on housing markets, labor markets and household financial behavior. One strand of Hurst's research explores the importance of home production in determining time series, life cycle, and business cycle variation in measured consumption spending. Recently, Hurst has explored how changes in the U.S. labor market have influenced U.S. macroeconomic outcomes. Hurst has published numerous papers on these issues, and his work has been extensively covered in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Economist. In 2012, Hurst was awarded the Ewing Marion Kauffman Prize Medal for Distinguished Research in Entrepreneurship. The medal is awarded annually to a scholar under 40 whose research has made a significant contribution to the literature of entrepreneurship.