Emi Nakamura, 2019 John Bates Clark award winner

From a new JEP appreciation by Janice Eberly and Michael Woodford:

Emi’s exposure to economics began early in life. Her grandfather, Guy Orcutt, was a distinguished econometrician (Watts 1991). Both of her parents, Alice and Masao Nakamura, were academic economists; her mother, Alice Orcutt Naka-mura, is a past President of the Canadian Economic Association. In addition to an early exposure to economic ideas, Emi credits her parents with instilling in her “a deep sense of the importance of testing theories empirically” (Ng 2015). Emi attended academic conferences with her mother and began taking economics classes at the University of British Columbia as a high school student. She credits one of these early classes, a master’s class on economic measurement and index number theory taught by Erwin Diewert, with making an early mark in her drive for clarity in measurement. In a similar vein, Emi watched the film “The Race for the Double Helix” about the discovery of the structure of DNA with her parents. They emphasized the role of the empiricist Rosalind Franklin and the notion that “there is nothing worse than a wrong fact.”

Perhaps one lesson here is the importance of mobilizing talent from very early ages.  Here is previous MR coverage of Emi Nakamura.


How many winners of the Clark medal were related by blood or marriage to other economists. For example, Paul Samuelson and Kenneth Arrow were some sort of brothers in law, and their mutual nephew Larry Summers also won.

Raj Chetty's father was an acclaimed econometrician. I remember seeing the photo on internet of 9 year old Raj writing some National Accounting identities on the board.

Seriously. Mobilizing talent very early, like at conception.

/With/ conception. Not at.

There's another talented Emi Nakamura except she does J-pop music.


There's a very successful French singer Aya Nakamura. Was thinking of her.

There's also a talented chess grandmaster, GM Hikaru Nakamura, who reached #10 in the all time highest Elo ratings list at 2700chess.com CHECK it out!!

is Nakamura a common Japanese name? Does it originate from a locality? an occupation? Just curious.

That name common? Naw. Not like mine.

About as common as Smith in Anglo-America.

I don't believe the "mobilizing talent from early ages" anecdote, not without more evidence. This seems more a family development. Perhaps she had more innate talent for basketball, we don't know, and average talent for economics, that was brought up to mastery by hard work involving coaching by her family members?

“there is nothing worse than a wrong fact.” Scream it from the rooftops! Sounds like her parents raised her well.

Her amazing Nobel prize tenure

Yes, by all means let us measure, measure, measure. But what is then the sum total of our “knowledge” ? An economist has got to know his limitations.

Social mobility FTW!

Tech is empiricism run amok. Maybe that's why many economists (Cowen?) are so impressed with their friends in tech. I can't help but recall the Sesame Street character Count von Count (known as the Count), he being an obsessive counter. I pointed out in the previous blog post about India its talent at counting stuff (but its lack of talent at building stuff), while America, though historically good at building stuff, has become more like India (not Greece), with its most talented young people choosing careers in counting stuff. The Count would be proud, the Count having contributed to developing counting skills among America's former youth, who have grown up to become wealthy developing all kinds of ways to count and to exploit for profit what's counted.

Great, but we've been told that she is one of the top ten economists for something like half a decade now, which suggests economics is so tiny / hermetic that it only needs about one person a year, most of whom are married or descended hermetically.

None of the serious economists I know take those prizes very seriously. One of them used BS prizes like the grammys as analogy.

Sounds like a fun childhood. “Mom, can I go out and play? No Emi, go to your tool and test theories empirically!”

Actually there is much less of this family influence in top economists than one might think from reading the comments here, with most of the obvious examples mentioned. Most economists I know have children who run screaming from the field, even when it looks like they might be good at it.

Two father-son examples who have the same initials and more or less in the same fields, but not identical full names:

John Kenneth Galbraith and James Kenneth Galbraith

Robert E. Baldwin and Richard E. Baldwin

And not father-son (not sure of their relationship, if any)

Anatol Rapaport and Amnon Rapaport.

I am aware of these three cases because References in journal articles using initials do not distinguish these, and all wrote on similar topics during overlapping periods. Using their names clarifies.

Anyway, the vast majority of JBC winners and Nobelists had no previous family connection to economics, although an old case that did was John Neville Keynes and John Maynard Keynes.

Comments for this post are closed