Anne Catherine Case


Anne Catherine Case, the Alexander Stewart 1886 Professor of Economics and Public Affairs, will retire after twenty-six years on the faculty at Princeton. Anne was raised in upstate New York and graduated first in her class from The State University of New York at Albany in 1980.

She then came to Princeton and earned a master’s in public affairs degree from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. During her time as a student in the Wilson School, Anne worked in the research department of the World Bank, where she decided a Ph.D. in economics would be useful if she were to pursue a career in international development. While working toward her Ph.D. in economics at Princeton, Anne discovered that the challenges of research and teaching were so rewarding that she decided to remain in academia. After receiving her Ph.D. in economics in 1988, Anne joined the faculty of the Harvard University Department of Economics before returning to Princeton in 1991 as a faculty member in the Wilson School and the Department of Economics. Since that time, Anne has played a central role in teaching and research in applied economics at Princeton.

Anne is a gifted teacher and adviser who has shepherded a generation of Wilson School MPAs and economics department doctoral students. She taught in the Ph.D. sequence in development economics for most of her years at Princeton, and has served as principal adviser to dozens of Ph.D. students. In 2011, she was recognized with the President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching. At graduation, the dean of the faculty announced, to all in attendance, “Her students say, ‘When I grow up, I want to be Anne Case.’” In writing for her award, a graduate student in economics added, “She is a teacher who can transform any dry, theoretic paper into accessible and exciting material, full of unanswered questions for us to explore together with her. She turns each lecture into an engaging discussion in which even shy students like me feel stimulated to participate.”

As an adviser, Case was known for motivating students to pursue challenging questions and to think creatively about how to develop their own research ideas. “Teaching economics demands a delicate balance between instilling confidence in a student’s abilities while still making sure they are uncomfortable enough to push themselves as hard as is required. Anne excels at this skill,” a former advisee wrote. Another former graduate student recalled, “When I would come to her office with a crazy idea, possibly promising but probably almost impossible to actually pursue, she’d join my excitement and say something like, ‘OK, this is great. Now just do it.’ And I, eventually out of excuses, just did it.”

Anne is known internationally for her work in both health economics and development. At the end of apartheid rule in South Africa, Anne undertook a long-term research project there, collecting longitudinal economic, health, and mental health data at several field sites and writing extensively on education, health, labor market participation, and household decision-making in both rural and urban South Africa. The depth of the AIDS crisis in southern Africa refocused her work toward documenting the impact of death in middle age on orphans left behind; on the health and well-being of the deceased’s kin; and on the functioning of health care systems charged with caring for HIV patients on top of the burden of disease they already faced. Her collection and analysis of longitudinal data from a large demographic surveillance site in KwaZulu-Natal allowed her to quantify the short- and long-run impacts of losing one’s mother at a young age in a poor setting, and is considered a seminal contribution to the literature. This work has been highly influential in the policy community and, for several years, Anne served on the UNAIDS/ World Bank HIV Economics Reference Group, a strategic advisory group founded to fight HIV.

During this period, Anne also began a highly productive collaboration with Christina Paxson investigating the links between health status and economic circumstances in developed countries.

The positive relationship between economic status and health status in adulthood in rich countries had been well-documented, but researchers’ interpretations of that positive correlation varied greatly, largely by discipline; economists pointed to the impact of poor health on earnings potential, while social epidemiologists argued that low status caused illness. In a series of influential papers, Anne and Christina Paxson sidestepped the channels running from health to income, by focusing on household income and health in childhood and by documenting the extent to which poorer children fall into worse health as they age so that they land on the doorstep of adulthood with poorer health and poorer economic opportunities. This work on the origins of the socioeconomic-health gradient was recognized with the Kenneth J. Arrow Award in Health Economics by the International Health Economics Association.

Most recently, Anne, together with Angus Deaton, discovered that, after a century of almost continual decline, the mortality rates of middle-aged U.S. white non-Hispanic men and women stopped declining, and began to rise, shortly before the turn of the new century, and continued to rise from that point. They found this reversal, which  was not taking place in other wealthy countries, nor among blacks or Hispanics in the United States, was led by increases in what they called “deaths of despair”— increases in suicide, accidental drug overdose, and alcohol-related liver mortality.

Their first paper in this investigation was awarded the Cozzarelli Prize by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, recognizing scientific excellence and originality. In further work, Anne and Angus document that the increase in deaths of despair are larger for each successive birth cohort entering midlife and are rising in synch with measures of poor health, lower labor market attachment, and social dysfunction. This line of work has garnered international attention.

Anne has provided a great deal of public service to the profession. She was an editor of the Journal of Development Economics, and has served on many editorial boards. She held a three-year appointment  on the executive committee of the American Economic Association and served for eight years as a board member of the United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER). She is currently serving on the National Research Advisory Child Health and Human Development Council and on the President’s Committee on the National Medal of Science. She will begin to serve on the Committee on National Statistics in July. Anne is a fellow of the Econometric Society and, in 2017, was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Although Anne is moving to professor emerita status, it is our good fortune that she will continue both her research and teaching at Princeton. Beginning in July 2017, she will serve as a lecturer with the rank of professor at the Wilson School.