PhD from Princeton University, 1998
Cohort 5 (1998–2000): University of California, Berkeley/University of California, San Francisco
Position as of July 2006
3M Professor of Economics
Department of Economics
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Michael Greenstone wrote his dissertation at Princeton University on the costs and benefits of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1970 and 1977. When he received his doctorate in 1998, he joined the Robert Wood Johnson Scholars in Health Policy Research at the University of California, Berkeley, in order to build on this work by exploring the connections between pollution and health.
He also appreciated the chance to devote two years at the start of his academic career to "getting my research feet under me."
In addition to the basic coursework of the program, Greenstone attended seminars on labor economics and public economics. He continued his prior research focusing on the area of infant mortality and air pollution, finding a relationship between particulates in air pollution and infant mortality rates.
He also completed a project that examined how policy-makers weigh the trade-offs between the benefits of increasing automobile speed limits and the additional fatalities that faster speeds cause.
While at Berkeley, Greenstone uncovered data showing that, prior to the "War on Poverty" in the 1960s, African-American infants in the South had much higher mortality rates than white infants, but that these differences substantially declined in later years. His research determined that integration of hospitals in that period played a significant role in the improvement of the health of African-American infants.
Because he had clear and specific research interests when he entered the program, Greenstone found that its freedom and lack of tight structure worked very well.
"The [program] gave me the time and flexibility to carefully complete existing projects and the freedom to begin long-run projects that require substantial investments. The typical junior faculty member's teaching and committee requirements, along with the ticking tenure clock, make it very difficult to initiate these types of projects."
Greenstone has continued research on black/white infant mortality rates, a topic he says he most likely would not have had the time to pursue had he not been in the program.
After leaving the program, Greenstone joined the department of economics at the University of Chicago as an assistant professor, where he taught courses in environmental economics and econometrics.
He continued the research on air pollution and human health and on African-American/White infant mortality that he started while in the program, and started new research projects investigating the economic impacts of climate change, the effects of mandated disclosure laws on publicly traded companies and the impacts of the Hill-Burton Act that greatly increased the number of hospitals in the United States after World War II.
In 2003, he accepted a position in the department of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he is now the 3M Associate Professor of Economics.
Also in 2003, Greenstone became a member of the Environmental Economics Advisory Committee of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Science Advisory Board.
He and co-author Kenneth Chay (of the University of California, Berkeley) were honored by the International Health Economics Association with its Kenneth J. Arrow Award for the best paper on health economics published in 2004. Their paper, "The Impact of Air Pollution on Infant Mortality: Evidence from Geographic Variation in Pollution Shocks Induced by a Recession," which appeared in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, found that fetal exposure to air pollution is an important contributor to infant mortality.
He is now actively engaged in a series of other health related projects. These include examinations of the health impacts of climate change in the United States and India, Superfund clean-ups and air pollution in India and China.
Greenstone was promoted to the position of 3M Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2006.