Harris Public Policy mourns the loss of an exceptional scholar, beloved colleague, mentor, teacher, and adviser.

A Message from Dean Katherine Baicker

It is with great sadness that I share the news of the passing of a beloved member of the Harris community and an exceptional scholar, Professor Robert LaLonde (AB ’80).  Bob passed away yesterday after a long illness. Bob was surrounded by his wife, children, siblings, and in-laws when he passed.  We send our deepest condolences to his family.

I know how difficult this news is for our community - his Harris family.  Bob left an indelible mark on this institution and the lives of so many people over the decades he spent at the university. Today, we grieve a beloved colleague, mentor, teacher, and adviser.

Highly respected within the university and among peers, Bob was regarded as one of the foremost scholars in the fields of labor economics, econometrics, and program evaluation, where he pioneered new methods that have had a lasting impact on policy and economics. The far-reaching influence of his work has been chronicled over the years by academic journals, and most recently, in a series of essays published in his honor by the Journal of Labor Economics.

Bob left an indelible mark on this institution and the lives of so many people over the decades he spent at the university.

His dedication to the University of Chicago and its intellectual values ran deep. After earning his PhD from Princeton in 1985, Bob joined the University of Chicago, returning to his undergraduate alma mater, to teach at the Chicago Booth School of Business (then, the Graduate School of Business) and at Harris. His research spanned topics of program evaluation, education and training of the workforce, economic effects of immigration on developed countries, costs of worker displacement, impact of unions and collective bargaining in the United States, and economic and social consequences of incarceration. Deeply concerned about issues of inequality in America, he studied job training programs targeted toward the disadvantaged, the plight of women in Illinois prisons and their children, and the employment prospects of young men after they are paroled from prison.

Highly engaged in the policy sphere and an advocate for evidence-based policy, Bob served as a fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) and the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), as well as a senior staff economist at the Council of Economic Advisers (1987–1988). He was also a member of the Board of Directors of Public/Private Ventures, a national nonprofit organization with the mission of improving the effectiveness of social policies, programs, and community initiatives.

As one of Harris’ long-standing faculty members, Bob is perhaps best known by many alumni for having served as the director of Harris’ PhD program from 2008-2013 and as a mentor to the countless students who took his courses. During his career, Bob served on over 21 dissertation committees at Harris as well as in the economics department and at Booth. 

His accomplishments, indeed, are far too many to do them justice. I hope you will all join me in coming together as a community to honor, celebrate, and mourn the loss of this incredible individual with stories and support. 

Details about services and condolences are forthcoming. We will also organize a reception for our community in Chicago, and I invite anyone who wishes to participate in the planning to reach out to Tanya Hines.