Professor and Department Head
-- Ph.D., California Institute of Technology
-- M.S., California Institute of Technology
-- B.A., University of Rochester
Shawn Kantor's research explores how economic, political, and legal institutions interact to influence the process of economic development. His current research examines the impact that research universities have on regional economic growth, both historically and today. By examining the ascendency of the modern American research university over the past 125 years, Kantor's research attempts to measure the broad economic effects of public investments in university knowledge production, especially from a regional perspective. Understanding the mechanisms through which knowledge flows between academic researchers and their local economies also provides insights into the nature of the frictions that might impact the successful use of scientific discoveries emanating from universities. Fundamentally, the research advances our understanding of how universities ultimately affect the productivity of American firms and regions. The research involves the collection of over a century’s worth of manufacturing data at the state and city levels and the use of innovative econometric techniques to identify the causal role that universities play in their neighbors’ economic success. This fairly new research project has been supported by two National Science Foundation grants.
Kantor is the author of numerous books and articles and his research has been extensively supported by external granting agencies, primarily the NSF. His book Politics and Property Rights: The Closing of the Open Range in the Postbellum South (University of Chicago Press, 1998), which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, examines the transformation of property rights to land in the South after the Civil War. His co-authored book A Prelude to the Welfare State: The Origins of Workers' Compensation (University of Chicago Press, 2000) analyzes the factors that contributed to the introduction of the first major social insurance program in the United States. The book was awarded the TIAA-CREF Institute Certificate of Excellence for Outstanding Scholarly Writing on Lifelong Financial Security and the Richard A. Lester Prize for the Outstanding Book in Labor Economics and Industrial Relations. An article on the political economy of compulsory state workers' compensation insurance systems won the Economic History Association's 1997 Arthur H. Cole Prize for the outstanding article published in the Journal of Economic History. Kantor is currently completing a highly successful, long-term project with Price Fishback (University of Arizona) and other co-authors examining the economic consequences of the New Deal. The research has measured the impact of New Deal spending on a variety of important economic and social outcomes such as retail consumption, migration, infant mortality, building construction and housing values, employment and wages, and crime. The research has broken important new ground in providing insights into the microeconomic effects of large-scale fiscal policy interventions, such as those that occurred during the New Deal era and recently during the Great Recession.
Kantor holds an appointment as a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, MA, and is a Fellow of the TIAA-CREF Institute in New York, NY.