Edward Lazear

Edward Lazear

Edward Paul "Ed" Lazear (born 1948) is an award-winning American economist, considered the founder of personnel economics, and is the chief economic advisor to President George W. Bush.


Lazear graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a bachelor's degree and master's degree in economics in 1971. He received his doctorate in economics from Harvard University in 1974.

From 1985 to 1992, he was a professor of Urban and Labor Economics at the University of Chicago. Since 1992, he has been an economics professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business. Lazear has served as a research assistant at the National Bureau of Economic Research, as well as a research fellow at the Centre for Economic Policy Research and the Institute for the Study of Labor. He is a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. In 1996, he founded the Society of Labor Economists. Prior to his nomination and confirmation as chief economic advisor to the President, Lazear was a member of Bush's tax reform advisory panel in 2005.


Lazear is the founding editor of the Journal of Labor Economics. He has published over 100 scholarly articles.

Most of his work has to do with motivating and compensating workers. One of his most famous papers, "Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts," proves that in certain circumstances, it is in a firm's best interest to rank its employees and pay particularly high wages to the top-ranked employees. This helps explain why the highest jobs, like chief executive officer, often draw paychecks that are much higher than the next-highest jobs, even though the skill differences between those employees are not very high. It also helps explain the partnership structure of law firms, in which associate lawyers compete to become partners and earn a much higher salary. He has also analyzed how peer pressure and mandatory retirement can help reduce principal-agent problems in companies.


Lazear has won a number of awards over his career. Among those that he has won are:


  • Lazear, Edward (1995). Personnel Economics. MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-12188-3.
  • (1996). Culture Wars in America. Hoover Institution Press. ISBN 0-8179-5762-6.
  • Lazear, Edward (1995). Economic Transition in Eastern Europe and Russia: Realities of Reform. Hoover Institution Press. ISBN 0-8179-9332-0.
  • Lazear, Edward (2002). Education in the Twenty-first Century. Hoover Institution Press. ISBN 0-8179-2892-8.


Edward Lazear is listed as a coinventor on 5 pending US patent applications. Some of these pending patent applications are considered to be tax patents. This has led to criticism of Lazear by organizations opposed to tax patents, such as Citizens for Tax Justice. Lazear, however, no longer has any ownership rights in these pending applications and cannot receive any royalties from them should they ever issue as valid patents. The full ownership rights to these applications are owned by Liquid Engines.


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