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Banks-McKelvey Memorial Lecture

Thursday, January 14, 2021
4:00pm to 5:30pm
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Assortative Matching, Innovation Rates, and the Great Divergence
Gary W. Cox (PhD '83), William Bennett Munro Professor of Political Science, Stanford University,


Cox earned his PhD from Caltech in 1983. In addition to numerous articles in the areas of legislative and electoral politics, he is the author of The Efficient Secret (winner of the 1983 Samuel H. Beer dissertation prize and the 2003 George H. Hallett Award), co-author of Legislative Leviathan (winner of the 1993 Richard F. Fenno Prize), author of Making Votes Count (winner of the 1998 Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award, the 1998 Luebbert Prize, and the 2007 George H. Hallett Award), co-author of Setting the Agenda (winner of the 2006 Leon D. Epstein Book Award), and author of Marketing Sovereign Promises (winner of the 2016 William Riker Prize). A former Guggenheim Fellow, Cox was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1996 and the National Academy of Sciences in 2005.

Abstract: Many scholars believe the Great Divergence was driven by different rates of innovation across Eurasia (e.g., Clark 2007; Goldstone 2008; Vries 2016; Mokyr 2017). However, they disagree on why this "inventiveness gap" emerged. In the paper on which this lecture is based, Cox and Valentin Figueroa argue that Kremer's (1993) model of development helps to explain when and why northwest Europe's innovation rate diverged from the rest of Europe's and Eurasia's. We provide several kinds of supportive evidence, showing that highly-skilled Europeans increasingly assortatively matched; that Europe's urban system became increasingly stratified; and that European rates of innovation in key sectors increased relative to the rest of Eurasia, while becoming more unequal within Europe.

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This event is the inaugural Banks-McKelvey Memorial Lecture, which honors the research and teaching of two colleagues who made seminal contributions to political economy. Jeffrey S. Banks was a 1986 Caltech PhD who, after a stellar career at University of Rochester, returned to Caltech in 1997. He made important contributions to game theory and the politics of voting. He was a fantastic teacher and, in the few years he was teaching at Caltech, trained some of our best students. Richard D. McKelvey (Banks' advisor) was a pioneer in just about every field of political science, including developing statistical methods for analyzing voting patterns, mathematical models of voting participation, and key contributions to game theory that spanned computer and social sciences. He was a member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. During his years at Caltech (1979-2001), he too was a celebrated teacher. We lost both of them prematurely.

The Banks-McKelvey Memorial Lecture series brings important figures in the social sciences to campus to energize the Caltech community to address new and important questions in the social sciences. The series is made possible by a gift of endowment from Howard E. Jessen (BS '46).

For more information, please contact Gail Nash by email at [email protected].