The U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research

The 1920 foundation of the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research marked the beginning of a boom for macro-economist who used atheoretical, statistical models of economic fluctuation, models based on cycles and trends instead of economic theory.

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) is a United States private nonprofit research organization. It is considered one of the most influential domestic economic policy think tanks in the United States, and is also famous for announcing the start and end dates for recessions in the United States.

NBER is currently located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and has a branch office in New York City.

The U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research


The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) was founded in 1920. The United States economists Wesley Clair Mitchell was one of the co-founders, and also served at NBER´s first staff economist and director of research. In 1922, one of the other co-founders, Malcolm C. Rorty, became president of NBER. Mitchell remained as adirector of research until 1945.

Research programs and working groups

NBER is running 20 research programs and 14 working groups.

The research programs are for the fields Aging, Asset Pricing, Behavioral/Macro, Capital Markets and the Economy, Children, Corporate Finance, Development of the American Economy, Economics of Education, Economic Fluctuations and Growth, Energy and the Environment, Health Care, Health Economics, Industrial Organization, International Finance and Macroeconomics, International Trade and Investment, Labor Studies, Law and Economics, Monetary Economics, Political Economy, Productivity, and Public Economics.

Start and end dates for US recessions

NBER is renowned for announcing the start and end dates of United States recessions.

NBER defines a recession as “a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales”.

It should be noted that United States newspapers typically define a recession as a two consecutive quarters of shrinking gross domestic product (GDP), so NBER declarations can differ from what the media is reporting.

Business cycle dates are determined by the NBER dating committee, which is under contract with the United States Department of Commerce.

Dates for the 2007 – 2009 recession

According to NBER, the United States 2007-2009 recession began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. This was announced in September 2010, when the country was still struggling with fairly high unemployment numbers.

“In determining that a trough occurred in June 2009, the committee did not conclude that economic conditions since that month have been favorable or that the economy has returned to operating at normal capacity. Rather, the committee determined only that the recession ended and a recovery began in that month. A recession is a period of falling economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales. The trough marks the end of the declining phase and the start of the rising phase of the business cycle.” – NBER

Examples of notable NBER members

  • Daron Acemoglu
  • Alberto Alesina
  • Robert Barro
  • Arthur Burns
  • Aaron Edlin
  • John Lipsky
  • Francis Longstaff
  • Alan Marcus
  • Anna Schwartz
  • James Alan Robinson
  • Richard N. Rosett
  • Eduardo Schwartz
  • Andrei Shleifer
  • Richard Zeckhauser
  • Joshua Angrist, 2021
  • David Card, 2021
  • Guido Imbens, 2021
  • Abhijit Banerjee, 2019
  • Esther Duflo, 2019
  • Michael Kremer, 2019
  • Paul Romer, 2018
  • William Nordhaus, 2018
  • Richard Thaler, 2017
  • Bengt Holmström, 2016
  • Oliver Hart, 2016
  • Angus Deaton, 2015
  • Lars Peter Hansen, 2013
  • Robert J. Shiller, 2013
  • Alvin E. Roth, 2012
  • Christopher Sims, 2011
  • Thomas Sargent, 2010
  • Peter Diamond, 2010
  • Dale Mortensen, 2010
  • Paul Krugman, 2008
  • Edward C. Prescott, 2004
  • Finn Kydland, 2004
  • Robert F. Engle, 2003
  • Joseph Stiglitz, 2001
  • George Akerlof, 2001
  • James J. Heckman, 2000
  • Daniel L. McFadden, 2000
  • Robert C. Merton, 1997
  • Myron S. Scholes, 1997
  • Robert E. Lucas, 1995
  • Robert W. Fogel, 1993
  • Gary S. Becker, 1992
  • George J. Stigler, 1982
  • Theodore W. Schultz, 1979
  • Milton Friedman, 1976
  • Wassily Leontief, 1973
  • Simon Kuznets, 1971

Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) Chairmen

  • Alan Krueger 2011–2013
  • Austan Goolsbee 2010–2011
  • Christina Romer 2009–2010
  • Edward Lazear 2006–2009
  • Ben Bernanke 2005–2006
  • Harvey Rosen 2005–2005
  • N. Gregory Mankiw 2003–2005
  • R. Glenn Hubbard 2001–2003
  • Janet Yellen 1997–1999
  • Joseph Stiglitz 1995–1997
  • Michael Boskin 1989–1993
  • Martin Feldstein 1982–1984