The Jason Bates Clark Medal is usually awarded to economists studying rather traditional subjects—tax policy researchers and development experts, for example—but not the latest recipient, Matthew Gentzkow.
One of Gentzkow’s studies, with co-author Jesse Shapiro, examined political bias in the news media and concluded that reader demand, not newspaper owners, were driving political slant. Another looked at 300,000 high school students’ test scores, dating back decades, to conclude that watching television didn’t actually have a negative effect on intelligence.
“Ideological segregation online and offline,” also with Shapiro, studied whether internet media consumption is exacerbating America’s political divide, using internet browsing data. It concluded that the “echo chamber” effect of the internet isn’t actually that pervasive—online news consumers from the far right or left are just as likely to view mainstream media news as other internet users, although there is more segregation than among offline news consumers.
Gentzkow, 38, earned his masters and PhD in economics at Harvard University, but wasn’t an early entry into the field—he studied sociology as an undergraduate and started a theater company in Maine.
In the past, media was not part of economic study, he told The New York Times, because the data and analysis methods the internet provides were not available. “This work would have been impossible 20 years ago,” he said. “The set of questions that can be answered using economic methods has exploded,” he said.