SPIA Economist Wins Prestigious Jacobs Research Prize

Tom Durso, SPIA
Headshot of Janet Currie Janet Currie, SPIA economist

Janet Currie to receive prize, deliver lecture in Zurich next month

Janet M. Currie, an economist at the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, has been awarded the prestigious Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize by the Zurich, Switzerland-based Jacobs Foundation. She will receive the prize, endowed with 1 million Swiss francs, at a ceremony at the University of Zurich in November.

Currie, the Henry Putnam Professor of Economics and Public Affairs and co-director of SPIA’s Center for Health and Wellbeing(external link), with a joint appointment to the Department of Economics, was cited for her “foundational work on the influence of context such as policy decisions, environment, or health systems on child development.”

“Professor Currie’s pioneering use of administrative data and natural experiments has helped advance the field of child development in unprecedented ways,” said Simon Sommer, co-chief executive officer of the Jacobs Foundation. “Her groundbreaking work has demonstrated the crucial impact of different structural, social, and environmental contextual elements on children's educational outcomes, physical, and psychological well-being.”

A pioneer in the economic analysis of child development, Currie has worked with researchers from a variety of disciplines to study the impact of preschool, public health insurance, mothers’ education, environmental hazards, and, more recently, mental health on child outcomes. Her current research focuses on socioeconomic differences in health and access to health care, environmental threats to health, the important role of mental health, and the long-run impact of health problems in pregnancy and early childhood. Currie’s trailblazing studies have demonstrated the importance of the fetal period and early childhood, along with the cost-effectiveness of early interventions during these critical life stages.

“I am extremely grateful to the Jacobs Foundation for supporting my research,” said Currie, who was recently named to the University's Industrial Relations Section(external link). “I look forward to using the prize to continue using the tools of economic science to try to improve the lives of poor children.”

On the day Currie receives her prize, the Jacobs Foundation is hosting a symposium in her honor titled “Insights on the manyfold impacts of children’s context on their development.” Currie will deliver a lecture, “Child Mental Health and Human Capital Formation,” at the event.

The prize will fund the next several years of Currie’s research, on on interventions designed to improve child mental health.

“I will try to understand why clinicians make inappropriate treatment decisions and examine the extent to which training, guidelines, or algorithmic decision-making tools can help to improve treatment and outcomes,” she said. “I also want to examine how changing the school environment can affect child mental health at the population level. I’ll look at the impact of school-based mental health providers and programs, as well as anti-bullying regulations and training. Another important question is how high-stakes testing affects mental health and whether there are ways to alleviate the burden.”

In addition to her roles at SPIA, Currie co-directs the Program on Families and Children at the National Bureau of Economic Research. Among numerous other recognitions, she is the president-elect of the American Economic Association, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, and the American Academy of Art and Sciences, and a fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, the Society of Labor Economists, and the Econometric Society. The World Economic Forum named Currie one of the top 10 women in economics in 2015, and she was named a Nomis Distinguished Scientist in 2019.

The Klaus J. Jacobs Awards were established in 2009, in memory of the founder of the Jacobs Foundation. The awards honor his commitment to promote research, practice, and scientific advancement in the field of child and youth development and learning. The Jacobs Research Prize acknowledges exceptional researchers whose scientific contributions can be considered as a cornerstone for the advancement in the field, in any scholarly discipline aiming at improving learning, development, and living conditions of children and youth.

Currie earned her Ph.D. in economics from Princeton. She holds master’s and bachelor’s degrees, also in economics, from the University of Toronto.

Please see the Jacobs Foundation's website for more information.