Israeli American economist Joshua Angrist, who was named on Monday as one of the three winners of the 2021 Nobel Prize in Economics, has spent several years of his academic career teaching and researching in Israel.
However, the MIT professor, who went back to his native United States, once revealed in an interview that he, like many other Israeli academics, decided to move to greener pastures and leave the country for a better-paying job with more opportunities overseas — a phenomenon known as a brain drain.
"I was tired of the situation here. The Israeli system does not reflect the reality of pay differential by field. It's the public system and it's not very flexible," Angrist told the Jerusalem Post in 2006.
Using university professors as an example of these problems, he said professors in high-demand fields, such as computer science and economics, were paid the same as those in lower-demand fields like literature. In other countries, however, the market decides professors' salaries.
"Talented people who might like to work in Israel have to pay a high price for that financially," he said. "It's hard to retain people with that kind of system."
Angrist, 61, was born in Columbus, Ohio and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He lived in Israel from 1982 until 1985. He returned to Israel in 1991 as a senior lecturer at the Hebrew University. After being promoted to associate professor at Hebrew University, he joined MIT's Economics Department in 1996 as associate professor, before being raised to full professor in 1998. Since 2008, he has been MIT's Ford Professor of Economics and teaches econometrics and labor economics to its students.
Angrist shares the award with Stanford University's Guido Imbens and David Card of the University of California at Berkeley.
Canada-born Card took half the prize "for his empirical contributions to labor economics", the academy said. Angrist and Imbens shared the other half "for their methodological contributions to the analysis of causal relationships".
The Hebrew University congratulated the former lecturer and professor in a statement.
"The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU) heartily congratulates Professor Joshua Angrist and Guido Imbens, along with David Carr, on being awarded the [prize formerly known as the] 2021 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. The award was given for their methodological contributions to the analysis of causal relationships, and empirical contributions to labor economics, respectively,” the university said, “Angrist spent a good number of years at HU, serving as a Senior Lecturer in Economics from 1991-1995 and as an Associate Professor at HU’s Economics Department from 1995-1996, before returning as a Lady Davis Fellow in 2004-2005.”
“His prize honors us and is a great privilege for the many HU students lucky enough to have learned with him,” President of Hebrew University, Professor Asher Cohen, added.
Angrist’s former colleague at HU’s Bogen Family Department of Economics and close personal friend Prof. Victor Lavy also congratulated the fresh Nobel Prize laureate.
"Joshua Angrist is a loyal friend of the State of Israel and the Hebrew University. He spends a significant portion of his time researching issues related to education and the economy in Israel," Lavy said. "Josh has been my personal research partner for decades and a close personal friend. I am very happy for him and proud of him for this amazing achievement.