CMU Alumnus Shares Nobel Prize in Economics

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As a doctoral student at Carnegie Mellon University in the 1960s, Dale Mortensen rubbed shoulders with two future Nobel laureates in economics: Herb Simon and Robert E. Lucas Jr.

"I was exposed to ideas, particularly Herb Simon's ideas, about economics," Mortensen said yesterday during a conference call from Denmark after winning the 2010 Nobel Prize in economics. "I never was totally convinced by Professor Simon, but it did affect my thinking that economics needed to be more realistic than it was."

Mortensen, 71, an economics professor at Northwestern University and a visiting professor at the University of Aarhus in Denmark, received his doctorate in economics from Carnegie Mellon in 1967. He shares the $1.5 million prize with Peter Diamond, 70, an economics professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Christopher Pissarides, 62, an economics professor at the London School of Economics.

They developed a theory that helps explain why some people remain unemployed in good economic times. In essence, they said, people are more likely to hold out in the hope that a better opportunity will become available. In bad economic times, people typically accept the first jobs offered to them.

While at Carnegie Mellon, Mortensen lived in Squirrel Hill for the first year of his marriage and later moved near Point Breeze.

"It was an exciting time," he recalled, citing the relationship between students and faculty. …