John Strauss grew up in New York and earned a B.A. in political science from Northwestern University. He went on to complete a Ph.D. in economics and agricultural economics at Michigan State University. He began his professional academic career as an assistant professor at the University of Virginia and then moved to Yale University Department of Economics and the Economic Growth Center. After three years at RAND in Santa Monica, California (where he continues to serve as Adjunct staff), John returned to Michigan State University as a professor in the Department of Economics. In 2004, he moved west (again) to join the Department of Economics at the University of Southern California where he remains and holds a joint appointment as professor in the Davis School of Gerontology. He is also Cheung Kong Chair Professor, National School of Development at Peking University.
John’s early contributions to the field of economics focused on estimating causal relationships between nutrition and health and labor productivity. His 1986 Journal of Political Economy paper, “Does Better Nutrition Raise Farm Productivity” was the first paper in the literature to focus on this area. A large literature on this question grew from this work. He made additional contributions in this area, many joint with colleague and good friend Duncan Thomas.
Other important early contributions by John to the field of development economics focused on developing and estimating models of agricultural household behavior. These models incorporate both production and consumption decisions of households into a unitary framework. Among other work, his 1986 book with Inderjit Singh and Lyn Squire, Agricultural Household Models, is a standard reference in this field.
John has published numerous papers on the determinants of child health and nutrition in developing countries and was among the early contributors to this literature. His work focused on prices and socio-economic factors especially education and income.
In the last 15 years, John has spent considerable time and effort on two large-scale panel survey efforts. He is the Principal Investigator of the Indonesia Family Life Survey (IFLS) and, along with Yaohui Zhao, is a PI of the China Health and Retirement Study (CHARLS). (The former resulting in a nice collection of batik shirts!). Following respondents for years and even decades, these surveys are pioneering in both their effort to track the same person as well as introduce more depth to household surveys (such as biomarker data). Both surveys are in the public domain for scientists around the world to use freely. Using the data from these surveys, among other work, John has studies focused on aging in both countries, looking at height shrinkage, depressive symptoms, diabetes, and other health outcomes among the elderly.
John was Editor-in-Chief of Economic Development and Cultural Change for 10 years (2003-2013) and he was co-editor of the Handbook of Development Economics, Volume 4. This Handbook contains major reviews of the recent scientific literature on various topics in development economics, including a co-authored chapter with Duncan Thomas on health and development economics, and serves as a valuable resource for those interested in this field.
John has mentored many young (and some not-so-young) economists, as a thesis advisor, as a collaborator, and in his teaching. He was a resource person to the African Economics Research Consortium. He served as the Director of Graduate Studies in the Economics Department at USC. John’s legacy of mentoring is reflected in the long list of researchers with the good fortune to have worked with him, now residing all over the world. They remain indebted to him for his guidance and support.
List of Donors:
Md Nazmul Ahsan
John T. Giles
Ren Mu and Xu Wang