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Clinton, Obama economist Alan Krueger dead at 58 from suicide, family says
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Alan Krueger, an influential labor economist who worked for both Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama died suddenly, reportedly from suicide, on Saturday. The university shared the tragic news Monday, and his family clarified that he took his own life. He was 58.
“It is with tremendous sadness we share that Professor Alan B. Krueger, beloved husband, father, son, brother, and Princeton professor of economics, took his own life over the weekend,” his family said.
Clinton economist commits suicide
Princeton University announced Krueger’s death Monday in a statement that did not mention a cause of death, but his family announced in a separate statement that Krueger had tragically taken his own life. Police found Krueger at home on Saturday.
“The family requests the time and space to grieve and remember him. In lieu of flowers, we encourage those wishing to honor Alan to make a contribution to the charity of their choice.”
He served as an economist in President Bill Clinton’s Labor Department from 1994 to 1995, and later as assistant secretary of the Treasury Department under Obama before becoming Obama’s chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers from 2011 to 2013. In a statement, Obama called him “a fundamentally good and decent man.”
“Alan was someone who was deeper than numbers on a screen and charts on a page,” Obama said. “He saw economic policy not as a matter of abstract theories, but as a way to make people’s lives better.”
Krueger taught at Princeton since 1987. The school called Krueger “a true leader in his field, known and admired for both his research and teaching.” “In addition to his scholarship, Alan’s life exemplified a commitment to public service,” the university said.
Noted labor economist
Krueger dedicated much of his work to the study of the minimum wage and income inequality. He is best known for a paper which found that raising the minimum wage did not result in as many job losses as expected, contrary to conservative free-market theories. The paper, which he wrote with David Card in 1993, found no impact on raising the minimum wage on employment in New Jersey’s fast food restaurants.
In a field known for abstract theory, he was noted for his interest in practical topics, which he sometimes approached in unconventional ways. He wrote a book on the economy and inequality in the music industry to be released in June, Rockonomics: A Backstage Tour of What the Music Industry Can Teach Us about Economics and Life. The book was inspired by a 2005 study in which Krueger found rising inequalities in concert revenue between top-billing artists and less popular performers.
Krueger also studied the connection between the opioid epidemic and labor force participation, showing that nearly half of men age 25 to 54 who had dropped out of the labor force were on pain medication. Former President Obama credited Krueger’s work with helping to shepherd the economy out of the recession.
“He spent the first two years of my administration helping to engineer our response to the worst financial crisis in 80 years and to successfully prevent the chaos from spiraling into a second Great Depression,” Obama said. “He helped us return the economy to growth and sustained job creation, to bring down the deficit in a responsible way and to set the stage for wages to rise again.”
Krueger also came up with the concept of the “Gatsby effect,” which refers to the famous F. Scott Fitzgerald character who moves up from humble circumstances to become a member of the nouveau riche through bootlegging. According to the concept, high-income inequality correlates with low economic mobility across generations. As economic disparities widen, the social station of one’s parents becomes a more significant predictor of economic mobility.
Krueger is survived by his wife, Lisa, and two adult children, Benjamin and Sydney.
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