Melissa Dell has been awarded the John Bates Clark Medal by the American Economic Association (AEA). The Clark Medal is among the most prestigious awards in the field of economics. It is presented annually, in April, to “that American economist under the age of forty who is judged to have made the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge.” The AEA first awarded the Clark Medal in 1947 – to Paul Samuelson – and a number of previous recipients have later won the Nobel Prize in Economics.
Dell is Professor of Economics at Harvard and a Faculty Fellow of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program. The AEA’s citation notes that Dell studies “the role state and other institutions play in the daily lives of and economic outcomes of ordinary people. In doing so she has also given a new energy and direction to the entire field of political economy and development.” Though much of her work is comparative, she focuses to a large degree on Latin America. The first paper cited by the AEA (published in 2010) examines the impacts of geographic discontinuities in the location of labor, in mines in Bolivia and Peru prior to 1812, on long-term social outcomes. Dell introduced significant methodological innovations – as well as deriving important political-economic insights – in this paper and others.