John Gibson awarded Distinguished Fellow of NZAE

John GibsonNew Zealand’s small size and distance from major markets are often cited as contributing to lower productivity domestically than in other developed countries. This year’s New Zealand Association of Economists Distinguished Fellow demonstrates that low productivity or diminished quality need not be the outcome if one is situated in New Zealand.

NZAE’s Distinguished Fellow award honours distinguished New Zealand economists for their sustained and outstanding contribution to the development of economics and its applications. It is designed to encourage excellence in economics and to promote the profession of economics in New Zealand.

The 2017 Distinguished Fellow is an economist who most definitely meets these requirements and who has been firmly situated in New Zealand for 20 years. Over that time he has been Professor of Economics both at University of Canterbury and University of Waikato.

Professor John Gibson is currently Professor of Economics at the Waikato Management School. A graduate of Lincoln University, John has a doctorate from Stanford University. His teaching and research interests are in microeconomics with special emphasis on the micro-econometric aspects of development and labour economics. He has been a member of an expert group advising the United Nations Statistical Division on the design and analysis of household survey data.

John’s work includes a large number of publications on topics of central importance to New Zealand and Asia-Pacific. These publications have appeared in top ranked journals globally.

His work on Pacific migrants in New Zealand utilising an administratively determined randomised design (together with co-authors David McKenzie and Steven Stillman) is particularly noteworthy both for its quality and for its importance in learning about migration outcomes.

John has published over 100 articles covering both applied and theoretical economics. His work has appeared in journals such as: The Review of Economics and Statistics, Journal of Development Economics, Economic Inquiry, Public Choice, World Development, Economic Journal, American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Journal of Economic Perspectives, Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Journal of the European Economic Association, Journal of Health Economics, Economics Letters, and Review of Income and Wealth.

He is one of the top four published authors over the first 50 years of New Zealand Economic Papers. Thus he contributes strongly to domestic economic discourse as well as contributing on an international stage.

According to Google Scholar, John has a total of 5,819 citations, and an h-index of 41. Within the RePEc rankings, he is ranked in the top 3 economists resident in New Zealand and in the top 5% of economists globally according to 37 separate metrics.

One example of John’s meticulous and insightful approach to research is his article with David McKenzie and Steven Stillman “How Important Is Selection? Experimental vs. Non-Experimental Measures of the Income Gains from Migration” that appeared in the Journal of the European Economic Association in 2010.

In this paper, John and co-authors use a randomised lottery of Tongans applying to migrate to New Zealand firstly to derive the (very large) income gains that Tongans receive when they migrate to New Zealand and, secondly, to compare this premium with what may be expected from a simple comparison of differences in per capita GDP and manufacturing wages (which implies under-performance for migrant incomes).

These results are extremely informative in their own right. However the study is distinguished by the surveying of an additional group of workers who did not apply to migrate, then using this extra information to consider methods for dealing with selection bias in the econometric estimates. They find that four of five well-known techniques for dealing with selection bias would have given inaccurate estimates of the income gains from migration.

This paper – and many others that John has participated in – shows that as well as producing novel empirical results, he also contributes at a fundamental methodological level in ways that assist other researchers to improve the quality of their own research.

John has made a sustained and outstanding contribution on the world stage to development economics and related aspects of the discipline. He has also played a major role in supervision of, and co-authorship with, graduate students, and in co-authorship with junior colleagues. This contribution to capability development within New Zealand is an important aspect of John’s work.

Across his many contributions, Professor John Gibson has proved that he has the outstanding credentials required for the award of Distinguished Fellow of the New Zealand Association of Economists.

Arthur Grimes
July 2017