Gary Stanley Becker. The Economic Way of Looking at Life.

For a student who studies economics, it is important to know the Nobel Laureates and their achievements. Professor Becker of University of Chicago comes to mind especially because of his notable achievement of “extending the domain of economic theory to aspects of human behavior which had previously been dealt with – if at all – by other social science disciplines such as sociology, demography and criminology. ”

Professor Becker and his application of economic theory extended to many different facets. His doctoral dissertation at the University of Chicago was on the economics of “Discrimination”. His dissertation showed and successfully challenged the Marxist notion that discrimination helps the one who discriminates.

The Economics of Discrimination – Theory

Professor Becker than moved onto the theory of Human Capital which was considered a fledgling discipline at that time. He was the proponent of the idea that Education is an Investment. Education adds to our Human Capital the same way that Investments add to Physical Capital.


Elaborating on one of the main insights from his discoveries in Human Capital – that time is a major cost of investing in education, he came to the conclusion that as market wages rose, the cost of women staying at home would increase.

His further research and keen mind led him to write on the economics of crime. Here he concluded that the decision to commit a crime is a function of costs and benefits of the crime. Hence, to deter crime the probability and severity of the punishment should be increased.

His research on Crime led to the evolution of a completely new branch of economics.


One of the reasons that Professor Becker is seen as a giant in the field of economics is that his study encompasses fields that have not been studied by economist. Crime, Human Capital, Discrimination led to him to write further on Families. His analytical mind led him to analyze families and decisions to have children, their education and the decision to marry and divorce.

A Treatise on Family.

In 2014 when I was admitted as an Economics Major, at UC Davis I was delighted since I would finally get the chances to meet economist who were actively involved in research pertaining to the subjects that had been written on by the professor. Alas on May 3rd 2014 the professor passed away coincidentally right before I started my studies at UC Davis. My classes in Economic in the First Quarter settled right into the midst of the work done by the professor. Topics in Economics in which we studied social mobility and intergenerational correlation, Ethics Issues – Crime and Punishment, where we studied the criminal justice system and Economic History, in which we studied many of influential economic thinkers and of-course Professor Becker.

Professor Becker’s work remains important for any student of economics seriously engaged in the study of social economics. Not only was he an intense academic writer but contributed heavily in the business columns.

His works an his approach to life are an inspiring and timeless read. It is safe to say that Professor Becker has not only made his mark on the field of economics but with exploration of subjects such as discrimination also on humanity itself.

Gary S. Becker – Prize Lecture

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