Alan Krueger ’83, one of the world’s most influential labor economists and a central figure in the rebuilding of the U.S. economy after the 2008 financial crash, died at his home March 16. Krueger, who served in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, was 58.
Krueger arrived at Cornell thinking he would become a lawyer, but while an undergraduate at the ILR School, he became captivated by economics – science that enabled him to touch millions of lives throughout a brilliant career.
A Princeton University professor for over three decades, Krueger wrote groundbreaking research applicable to people’s daily lives.
“His work is characterized by its importance for working people’s lives. It shows how economics is relevant to basic questions of how to improve people’s standard of living and their personal happiness,” said ILR Interim Dean Alex Colvin.
Kevin F. Hallock, dean of the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business and former ILR dean, said Krueger “cared deeply about human beings, and it showed in his research, the policy questions he tackled and his impact on others.”
Francine Blau, the Frances Perkins Professor of Industrial Relations and Professor of Economics, said that in addition to research on the effects of the minimum wage, Krueger “pulled economics in new directions,” studying topics from terrorism, to the opioid crisis and, most recently, the music industry. His book, “Rockonomics,” is expected to be published in June.
Krueger maintained strong ties with ILR. He served on the ILR Dean’s Advisory Council and received the school’s Judge William B. Groat Alumni Award in 2013 for outstanding alumni achievement and service to ILR. In 2014, he returned to ILR to share his White House experiences with students, faculty and the greater Ithaca community.
Krueger participated in school events in New York City and Ithaca, and published in The ILR Review. This month, the journal features research Krueger wrote with Harvard University economist Lawrence Katz that documents the rising number of freelance workers.
Ronald G. Ehrenberg, Cornell’s Irving M. Ives Professor of Industrial and Labor Relations and Economics, said, Krueger was a “true triple threat” who influenced economics as a scholar, teacher and public servant. Ehrenberg added that Krueger was also “perhaps the nicest person in the world to all people, regardless of their backgrounds.”
Krueger was chief economist of the U.S. Department of Labor from 1994-95 during the Clinton presidency. He served in the U.S. Department of the Treasury as chief economist and assistant secretary for economic policy in 2009-10 and was named to Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers in 2011.
Obama, referring to Krueger’s service, said: “As we were dealing with the effects of a complex and fast-moving financial crisis, a crisis that threatened a second Great Depression, Alan's counsel as chief economist at the Treasury Department proved invaluable.”
Krueger’s parents urged him to attend Cornell, where his older sister was majoring in chemical engineering and chemistry, so that they could visit both of their children at the same time. Krueger met his wife, Lisa Simon Krueger ’83, at Cornell.
A member of the Cornell track and field team, Krueger knew how to laugh at himself.
“I did the high jump, but just barely high enough to make the team,” he said. “In fact, I think they lowered the standard a few inches to let me make the team.”
In addition to his wife, Krueger is survived by a son, a daughter, his parents and two siblings.
Mary Catt is assistant director of communications at the ILR School.