Professor Alan Krueger, a top adviser to former Presidents Obama and Clinton, has been found dead of an apparent suicide.
Princeton police reported that they were called to the professor’s home on Saturday where they found him unresponsive, The New York Times reported.
Mr. Krueger was an assistant secretary of the Treasury from 2009 to 2010, as President Barack Obama’s administration tried to lead the United States out of its worst recession since the Great Depression. Mr. Obama later named him chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, a post he held from 2011 to 2013. He was the Labor Department’s chief economist under President Bill Clinton from 1994 to 1995.
A labor economist by training, Mr. Krueger was part of a new wave of economists who pushed the field toward a more empirical mind-set, with an emphasis on data rather than theory. He applied that approach broadly: to education, health care, labor markets and terrorism, and even to more lighthearted subjects like the rising price of concert tickets. His latest book, due out in June, is on the economics of the music industry.
“He is certainly among the most — if not the most — significant labor economists and all-around empirical economists of the last three decades,” said Lawrence Katz, a Harvard economist and frequent collaborator. Mr. Krueger, he said, was one of a handful of researchers who “really changed the shape of economics and turned it into a more serious science.”
Mr. Krueger was perhaps best known for his work in the early 1990s on the effects of the minimum wage, in collaboration with Mr. Katz and another economist, David Card. Standard economic thinking at the time held that raising the minimum wage would reduce employment for low-wage workers; Mr. Katz said that he and Mr. Krueger had expected to find the same. Instead, they discovered no impact on employment — a finding that has proved influential though it remains in dispute.
“Even when people were saying you’re crazy as an economist, he was really willing to let the data lead where it went,” Mr. Katz said.
Mr. Krueger was a young, newly tenured professor in 1994 when he was tapped by the secretary of labor, Robert B. Reich, to serve as chief economist for the department, succeeding Mr. Katz. After two years in the job, Mr. Krueger returned to Princeton and vowed never to return to government, according to a 2014 profile in a Princeton alumni magazine.
But in late 2008, Mr. Krueger got a call from Timothy F. Geithner, Mr. Obama’s pick for Treasury secretary. As Mr. Krueger recalled, Mr. Geithner said: “The economy’s in a free fall. Why don’t you come to Treasury and work on big, consequential things?”
“That was his line,” Mr. Krueger said. “And I couldn’t say no.”
Mr. Krueger spent two years at Treasury as chief economist and assistant secretary for economic policy. Then, after a brief return to Princeton, he went back to Washington as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, where he pushed the administration to focus on issues of inequality and economic opportunity.
One of the interesting things about the suicide is that Krueger has a book set to hit the shelves in June, 2019 and seemed to have everything to live for.
Stunned and saddened to read of Alan Krueger’s passing. He was a brilliant and warm WH colleague. A wonderful combination. RIPhttps://t.co/vNxGbCPusf
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) March 18, 2019