Daniel Hamermesh is a Professor of Economics at the Royal Holloway University of London, and Sue Killam Professor Emeritus in the Foundation of Economics at the University of Texas at Austin. His A.B. is from the University of Chicago, his Ph.D. from Yale. Daniel Hamermesh taught from 1969-73 at Princeton, from 1973-93 at Michigan State, and at Texas from 1993-2014. Impressively, Daniel Hamermesh has held visiting professorships at universities in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia, and lectured at over 250 universities in 48 states and 33 foreign countries. His research, published in nearly 100 refereed papers in scholarly journals, has concentrated on time use, labor demand, discrimination, academic labor markets and unusual applications of labor economics (to beauty, sleep and suicide). Daniel Hamermesh is also a Fellow of the Econometric Society and the Society of Labor Economists, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research and the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), and Past President of the Society of Labor Economists and of the Midwest Economics Association. In 2013 he received the biennial Mincer Award for Lifetime Contributions to Labor Economics of the Society of Labor Economists; the annual IZA Prize in Labor of the Institute for the Study of Labor; and the biennial John R. Commons Award of the international economics honor society OΔE. Please enjoy my interview with Daniel Hamermesh…
When someone asks you ‘what do you do for a living?’ – How do you respond?
Semi-retired economics professor and researcher.
As of today I’m in the middle of The Thirst by Jo Nesbø. I try to alternate nonfiction or good literature with “junk” such as thrillers or science fiction. So over the weekend I finished Trajectory by Richard Russo, the new book of stories.
When you think about your childhood, what book comes to mind?
Surprisingly enough, a book of Greek, Norse and other myths, written for 10-year-olds, that my paternal grandmother gave me as a present in 1951. We still have the book.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
As a kid I never thought about this. From age 17 on I wanted to be an economist, which at age 73 I still am.
What do you think your school aged self would think of the present day you?
He would be mystified, but, I should think, pleased with how fortunate he has been in every respect.
If you could wrap up a single book and gift it to yourself as you left education – which book would it be?
Probably Ulysses by James Joyce. I read this in college for fun, and it made a lifelong-lasting impression.
Does your reading have routine? Is there a particular time or place that you like to read?
Absolutely. I try to read for 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime, typically in a chair in the den or living room.
The Worldly Philosophers by Robert Heilbroner. Read it senior year of high school, and it is what got me interested in economics.
Do you have any books that you strongly associate with someone important in your life?
Other than things listed above and below, hard to think of any.
What book have you recommended the most to friends and family?
Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?
Probably fiction more, but for fun, since I read non-fiction (or at least I think of economic research as mostly non-fiction!) professionally.
Do you think reading is important?
It allows one’s imagination to wander. It requires one to concentrate, which no other medium does.
What’s the best book you’ve read in the last 6 months?
Do you prefer real books or digital books?
Digital. We travel a lot, and it is too difficult to shlep real books on longer trips.
Name a book that you feel everyone would benefit from reading and explain why.
Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust. It covers human relationships of all kinds better than any other book (or set of books); and the language, even in translation (and sadly, my French is not good enough to enable me to read the original), is glorious.
What is the book that you feel has had the single biggest impact on your life? What impact did it have?
I can’t think of any single book that did this—there are too many.
What books or subject matter do you plan on reading in the next year?
I’ll stick with my regimen of alternating good books and “junk,” going with what appears, how the books are reviewed, etc.
If you were to write an autobiography – what would it be called?
I Could Have Done Better.