Well, surprise. The announcement of the second tier international economics award comes as a big surprise. Or, perhaps not. These missives have oft mentioned Gordon's book the last few months. His approach is very much the wordy approach to analysis that Samuelson and Solow attempted, successfully, to kill off.
The economics association highlighted Mr. Donaldson's interest in historical research, an unusual focus for a leading economist. In one paper, Mr. Donaldson found that the spread of railroads in 19th-century India increased prosperity by increasing trade. A subsequent paper reached a similar conclusion about the United States.
Study the events, and you'll see why the data turned out as it did.
The economics association also highlighted Mr. Donaldson's research techniques. It said he had "formed and become the principal practitioner of a distinctive style of research, based on important conceptual questions, careful data work and credible identification combined with state-of-the-art structural methods."
One might dismiss such as reactionary, but given Trumpism and Creationism and Isolationism and Populism and the like, why not?
Finally, the real surprise to anyone who's kept track of econ research and punditry over the last decade,
Mr. Donaldson, 38, was born in Canada. He graduated from Oxford University with a degree in physics and then earned a doctorate in economics at the London School of Economics. He joined the faculty at Stanford in 2014.
When I was at UMass, I opted into then out of, the Ph.D. program and took the participation trophy MA rather than put up with just such graduate program professors. They could spit derivatives off the end of the chalk (yes, it was that long ago) with supreme confidence, but hadn't much of a clue about economics. Not a one of them would have written what Donaldson has. Not even as punishment for high crimes.