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Mortensen, Dale



  • Existence: 1939 - 2014


Dale Thomas Mortensen was born in Enterprise, Oregon on February 2, 1939, the son of Thomas P. and Verna Ecklund. His father was born in Denmark and worked as a forest ranger after immigrating to the United States. Mortensen attended Willamette University and received a B.A. in economics in 1961. He then completed a Ph.D. in Economics from Carnegie-Mellon University in 1967. In 1963, Mortensen married Beverly Patton, a fellow student at Carnegie Mellon and later a professor in Jewish Studies at Northwestern. They have three children: Karl, Lia and Julie.

He joined Northwestern’s Economics Department in 1965 as an Associate Professor and became a full professor in 1975. In 1980 he became a professor of managerial economics and decision sciences at the Kellogg School of Management. He also served as the director of the Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences Program at Northwestern from 1982-84 and 1992-2000. He was a visiting professor at Cornell University and New York University and also spent four years as a visiting professor at Aarhus University in Denmark (2006 and 2010). Mortensen worked on labor markets and macroeconomic policy throughout his career. He pioneered a new approach to studying labor called search theory. The theory explains why, even in good economic times, unemployed people find it difficult to have work and firms cannot fill vacancies. Mortensen focused on the inefficiencies and life stresses that prevented the unemployed from finding work. His work on labor markets was collated in his 2003 book Wage Dispersion: Why Are Similar Workers Paid Differently.

In 2010, Mortensen won the Nobel Prize in Economics Sciences for his work on search theory along with Peter Diamond of MIT and Christopher Pissarides of the London School of Economics. Mortensen accepted his award in January 2011. Mortensen and Pissarides later published a book about their research in 2011 entitled Job Matching, Wage Dispersion and Unemployment.

Mortensen died of lung cancer in 2014.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Dale Mortensen (1939-2014) and Beverly Mortensen (1939- ) Papers

Identifier: 11/3/10/13

Dale Mortensen (1939-2014) was an American economist and Nobel laureate, 2010. In 1965 he joined the faculty of Northwestern University and in 1980 became professor of Managerial Economics and Decision Sciences at the Kellogg School of Management. Beverly Mortensen (1939- ) is a scholar of music and ancient Jewish religion. The Dale Mortensen and Beverly Papers fills 171 boxes, includes approximately 8.96 megabytes of born-digital files, and spans the years 1939-2014.

Dates: 1939-2014