The University Record, January 8, 2001

Mueller honored by AEA committee for pioneering work in economics

By Diane Swanbrow
News and Information Services

Mueller (left) and Kossoudji. Photo by Bill Wood, Photo Services
Fifty years ago, when U-M professor emerita Eva Mueller received a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University, she asked the chairman of the department for help finding a job. “He said he couldn’t help me, since economics wasn’t a woman’s field,” she recalled. Undeterred, Mueller found a research job at the Institute for Social Research (ISR), where she helped to pioneer the use of surveys to analyze consumer behavior. After six years, she received a tenure-track appointment as an assistant professor in the Department of Economics and in 1964 was named a full professor.

“The struggle isn’t over yet," she said, accepting the Carolyn Shaw Bell Award Jan. 6 from the American Economic Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession.

Mueller was nominated for the award, given annually to an individual who has furthered the status of women in economics, by several former students, among them David Lam, professor of economics and director of ISR’s Population Studies Center, and Sherrie Kossoudji, associate professor of social work and adjunct associate professor of economics. “Eva was really unusual as a woman breaking into the male-dominated field of economics,” notes Lam. “She was a real role model for many of us,” says Kossoudji. “She was also consistent in her support for young female students. And she made us tough. ‘You must do better,’ she told us. ‘You must work harder.’ That was always her approach.”

Why did Mueller go into economics back in the 1940s, when distaff contributions to the dismal science were routinely discouraged? A teacher at Smith College first elicited her interest, and that teacher, of course, was a woman.