Becker, Gary (Stanley)(1930– ) economist; born in Pottsville, Pa. One of the sharpest economic minds, he often challenged long-established theories and introduced many original ideas into the economic community with his uncanny ability to apply a single, general economic principle to apparently unconnected factors. Except for twelve years at Columbia University (1957–69), he spent his career at the University of Chicago as an active part of the "Chicago School" of economics. His 1957 doctoral dissertation presented model evidence of labor discrimination; it also examined wage differentials between black and white workers by squaring it with the competitive model of labor markets. A later analysis examined crime as an occupation chosen for rational reasons with full consideration of the risks and benefits. In the mid-1960s, he began to concentrate on his "new economics of the family," and in 1965 he explored the division of family labor. His controversial ideas have challenged the singular consumptive nature of the family and instead view the family as a multi-person production unit, producing "joint utility" from the skills and knowledge of different family members.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.