Alexander J. Field
Michel and Mary Orradre Professor of Economics
Over the past two decades, Professor Field's research has been in two main areas. The first, aimed at better integrating the human sciences, is reflected in his 2001 book, Altruistically Inclined? The Behavioral Sciences, Evolutionary Theory, and the Origins of Reciprocity, which won the 2003 Alpha Sigma Nu National Book Award in the Social Sciences. Subsequent contributions in this area include "Group Selection and Behavioral Economics," in the Handbook of Contemporary Behavioral Economics: Foundations and Developments (2006), "Beyond Foraging", which appeared in the December 2007 Journal of Institutional Economics, and "Why Multilevel Selection Matters", in the Journal of Bioeconomics (December 2008). His paper "Prosociality and the Military" appeared in the Journal of Bioeconomics (July 2014), and "Schelling, von Neumann, and the Event that didn't Occur" was published in Games (2014).
A second area of research has been in macroeconomic history with a focus on technology and productivity. His article "The Most Technologically Progressive Decade of the Twentieth Century" appeared in the September 2003 American Economic Review. Other articles in this area include "Technological Change and U.S. Economic Growth in the Interwar Years," Journal of Economic History (March 2006), "Technical Change and U.S. Economic Growth: The Interwar Period and the 1990s" in Paul Rhode and Gianni Toniolo, eds. The Global Economy in the 1990s: A Long Run Perspective (2006), "The Equipment Hypothesis and U.S. Economic Growth," Explorations in Economic History (January 2007), "The Origins of U.S. Total Factor Productivity Growth in the Golden Age," Cliometrica (April 2007), "The Impact of the Second World War on U.S. Productivity Growth" Economic History Review (2008) and "U.S. Economic Growth in the Gilded Age," Journal of Macroeconomics (March 2009). His book A Great Leap Forward: 1930s Depression and US Economic Growth, published by Yale University Press, was selected as a 2011 Choice Outstanding Academic Title in the Economics category. In 2012 it received the Alice Hanson Jones Biennial Book Award as well as the 2012 Alpha Sigma Nu National Book Award in Social Sciences.
One of his recent working papers, “The Impact of the Second World War on the Growth of US potential Output” continues the exploration of the impact of World War II on the US economy. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, Field argues that the learning by doing associated with the mass production of 276,000 aircraft in a four year period as well as other ordnance, was largely irrelevant after the war because these were unique, never to be repeated events. Combined with the loss of manpower, the immediate postwar decline in female labor force participation, and the disruptive effects of war mobilization and demobilization, he concludes that, on net, the economic effects of the conflict were almost certainly retardative.
Related papers explore the wartime history of the U.S. synthetic rubber program, the disruption by German submarines of petroleum supplies to the East Coast in 1942, and what the wartime patenting record may tell us about the technological progressiveness of that period. Field is nearing completion on a book to be published by Yale University Press in 2021: Do You Believe in Magic? The Economic Consequences of U.S. Mobilization for the Second World War, which will bring together this body of work.
Other recent publications include a review essay on Thomas Piketty's best seller, Capital in the Twenty First Century in the Journal of Economic History (September 2014), "The Savings and Loan Insolvencies and the Cost of Financial Crisis (Research in Economic History, 2017), "Ideology, Economic Policy and Economic History: Cohen and DeLong's Concrete Economics (Journal of Economic Literature, December 2017, and “Manufacturing Productivity and U.S. Economic Growth” in the Oxford Handbook of American Economic History (2018). His paper on “Historical Measures of Economic Output” appeared in 2019 in the Handbook of Cliometrics.
Professor Field edited Research in Economic History for over ten years, and served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Economic History and Explorations in Economic History, and for over twenty years as Associate Editor of the Journal of Economic Literature. He was Executive Director of the Economic History Association between 2004 and 2012, on the National Science Foundation's Economics Panel in 2005 and 2006, and is currently on the Advisory Board of Cliometrica and the Journal of Bioeconomics. During the academic year 2013-14, he participated in the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholars Program.
Prior to coming to Santa Clara, Professor Field taught at Stanford University. At Santa Clara University he has served as acting Academic Vice President (1986-87), on the University's Board of Trustees (1988-91), as Associate and Acting Dean of the Leavey School of Business between 1993 and 1997, and as chair of the Economics Department between 1988 and 1993, and again in 2013-14. He is scheduled to deliver the Abramovitz lecture at Stanford University in December of 2020.