In Memory of Robert Haveman

Robert Haveman, a prime force behind the establishment of the La Follette School of Public Affairs, passed last week. Today, Tim Smeeding, a longtime friend, colleague,  co-author and student of Bob Haveman, shares some thoughts on this occasion.

It is with deep sadness that I share the news of the passing of Robert H. Haveman (Bob), 85. Bob died of heart failure surrounded by his loving family in Madison, Wisconsin on June 18, 2022. He was a brilliant man who had the common man’s touch and important contributor to applied economic research and public policy.

Bob earned  a doctorate degree from Vanderbilt University in Economics in 1963, and served as Senior Economist, Subcommittee on Economy in Government, Joint Economic Committee, U.S. Congress and then in 1970 joined the faculty at University of Wisconsin, where he finished his career, along the way serving as director of the Institute for Research on Poverty, The LaFollette School of Public Affairs, and chair of the Economics Department.

He published widely in public finance, the economics of environmental and natural resources policy, benefit-cost analysis, and the economics of poverty, inequality and social policy. He was a Fellow at the Russell Sage Foundation; a Research Associate at Resources for the Future; a Fulbright Siena Professor and Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study. He was co-editor of the American Economic Review and served as a visiting research fellow at the Australian National University in Canberra and at Melbourne University. He was past president of the International Institute of Public Finance. In 1996, Bob was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Umea University in Sweden. And in spring, 2022, he was named an Honored Colleague in the Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis.


This post written by Tim Smeeding.

12 thoughts on “In Memory of Robert Haveman

  1. Barkley Rosser

    I apologize that in my comment on this on another thread I mislabled the LaFollette School as a Center or something.

    I agree with Tim’s comments. I have posted on Econospeak about Bob Haveman’s death, a real loss.

    I cannot resist telling an old story I put there. Bob’s original connection with UW-Madison was through Wisconsin D Senator William Proxmire, with Bob becoming the Right Hand Man of The Proz on the Joint Economic Committee before Bob went to Madison in 1970, which I was a grad student. I think Bob was more progressive in his views than The Prox, who was very much a centrist Dem, most famous for his “Golden Fleece awards” given for government programs that wasted money on special interests. The Proz was a clean government guy very popular in Wisconsin. I think Bob’s interest in benefit-cost analysis was a holdover of being interested in government efficiency that The Proz represented.

    Anyway, my anecdote dates to early 1972. There was a rumor The Proz was thinking of entering that year’s presidential race, which he did not do. But at that time he gave a talk at the UW econ dept on 8th floor of Sewall, Lake Mendota behind him. I never saw Bob Haveman so escited, having brought him in, of course, and I think him thinking of possible high position in Washington. Anyway, he strongly urged all of us to attend, faculty and grad students, and we did, only time I ever saw The Prox.

    So he gave his standard speech about battling special interests and saving money and so on. OK. Then faculty member Laurits Christenson, who later left to run a still existing consulting company, asked The Prox, “If you are so against helping out special interests, why do you support dairy import quotas?” At that The Prox, who had takne over Joe McCarthy’s former seat, just smiled and replied, “Well, after all, I am the senior senator from the state of Wisconsin.”

    To this day I have wondered if being asked that helped nudge him into not running and disappointing Bob Haveman.

    Bob was a good guy and is survived by his wife and colleague, Bobbi Wolfe, who is still at the Poverty Institute, last I checked.

    1. Barkley Rosser

      And I apologize again, this time for not proofreading this message from me, which has a lot of embarrassing typos. However, I think everybody was able to figure it out. I mean, “The Proz” is pretty obviously “The Prox,” the old nickname for the late Senator William Proxmire (D-Wis).

      1. Barkley Rosser

        It may be that nobody else here will comment on this as nobody else here knew Bob Haveman or others related to this. I am going to add a side comment to note that Bob’s student, Tim Smeeding, whom you quoted, Menzie, also served as Director of the Institute for Research on Poverty at UW-Madison.

        More substantially, Tim is one of the world’s leading experts on income and wealth distribution data. This is to a large degree due to his long involvement with the Luxemburg income studies, but his knowledge goes well beyond that. I shall note that back when Piketty’s Capital book came out almost a decade ago, his work was criticized on both theoretical and empirical grounds. I commented here that while there were loose ends and serious questions about his theoretical framework, which I shall not repeat, it looked like his data was as accurate as one could hope for given the limits on that. When I made that comment here and in some other places, my ultimate source for that judgment came from having a substantial conversation with Tim Smeeding. He told me that Piketty’s data was as good as one could get.

        1. Barkley Rosser

          One final remark about Bob Haveman, given that this thread has gone on to other matters. Menzie can correct me if I am wrong, but I think that Bob was the most important person in actually getting the LaFollette School where he is based started and going, although I know the late Don Nichols also played an important role. Is that right, Menzie? Anyway, that was an especially notable achievement.

  2. macroduck

    Off topic –

    Anybody watching Pakistan? Large debts, inflation and a weakening currency had put the countries finances in dire condition. Import cover is was down to just one month. LNG imports have been curtailed due to payment difficulties. Oil brokers are demanding 100% margin cover, leading refineries to the brink of shutdown. There are widespread power outages. Sounding a bit like Sri Lanka.

    A little bit of help has arrived. Pakistan has just scored a $2.3 billion loan from Chinese banks, an early benefit of reaching a deal with the IMF. The IMF deal is worth $6 billion and has required a round of steep tax increases. Apparently, Saudi Arabia had demanded Pakistan go to the IMF or aid would be cut off. A new IMF program may not be a turning point for Pakistan. There have been eleven of them in the past twenty years.

    There are other hoops to jump through than IMF rules; Pakistan is at risk of loosing GSP+ trade status with the EU.

    Kinda seems like a big deal, what with nukes, China, India and Afghanistan as neighbors, and a population of 220 million. Haven’t seen much about it in the U.S. press.

    1. macroduck

      I also wonder whether the recent precarious turn for Myanmar’s military dictatorship isn’t partly due to Pakistan’s troubles. Pakistan likes to play in the big pool when it comes to foreign policy, but that’s expensive.

      Anyhow, with Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka all looking like economic basket cases, Myanmar looking unstable, India is in a tough neighborhood.

      1. macroduck

        Meanwhile, the underclass in ye U.S. can live without power, food and shelter, just like Pakistanis. The end of the U.S. experiment in universal (sic*) basic income has re-established “failed state” condition for millions of U.S. children:

        Heck, why not let 12 1/2 million U.S. kids live in their own Pakistan?

        Manchin and Sinema saved us from having to feed all those children. With help from every Republican in the Senate, of course. So thanks.

        *Universal income just for kids.

    2. pgl

      Bruce Hall pretended to care about Pakistan but only because he wanted to blame its issues on Biden. After all Biden got NATA to assist the Ukrainians deal with Putin’s invasion and this assistance according to Brucie boy is what has caused these problems in Pakistan. Never mind the fact that Pakistan is ruled by a corrupt group of fat cats,

      1. Barkley Rosser

        There are lots of people who suffer from, yes, BDS, Biden Derangement Syndrome. Many of them previously suffered from Obama Derangement Syndrome, and then when Trump came in they ran around declaring that his critics suffered from Trump Derangement Syndrome. But look at them now, guffaw!

        1. pgl

          Donald Trump Jr. claimed that the overturn of Roe by the Supremes was caused by Obama mocking daddy back in 2011. I sometimes wonder if Jr. is actually mentally retarded.

          1. Barkley Rosser

            It was Weiner showing off his weiner on phone photos where Hillary had emails, and Comey publicized this 11 days before the 2016 election. Of course, it is forgotten that Colin Powell and Condy Rice did the same thing with their phones, and it looks that Tramp and his brood did far worse while in the SH, but, so what?

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