Nobel Prize: Canadian thought winning call was a prank

Nobel Prize: Canadian thought winning call was a prank

A Canadian who shared the Nobel Prize in economics thought a middle-of-the-night phone call to congratulate him on the award was a prank from an old friend.

David Card, an economics professor of the University of California, Berkeley who is originally from Guelph, Ont., recently won the Nobel Prize in economics for his research into how minimum wage and immigration affect the labour force.

Card received the call at about 2 a.m. and thought it was a prank until realizing the call was coming from Sweden.

“My old friend, Tim, who lives in Guelph, I thought it was one of his practical jokes,” he told CTV News Channel on Tuesday.

Card added that after discovering that it was real, realized he could be in for a long night.

“I’ve known other people who’ve won the Nobel Prize, so I knew that that would mean I was probably going to not get any sleep,” he said.

Card’s recent accolade stems from his research that found raising the minimum wage does not impact employment levels, and a separate study that discovered immigration does not impact the employment of people who are native to an area.

In 1993, Card and his late research partner Alan Krueger found that increased minimum wages at four New Jersey-based fast-food restaurants did not decline after the minimum wage increased from US$4.25 to US$5.05 per hour, compared to the restaurants in eastern Pennsylvania that did not increase their minimum wage.

Card and Krueger also studied the labour market in Miami following an influx of Cuban immigration in 1980 and found no negative effects of the immigration for Miami residents, and later research found that the immigration actually had a positive impact on those born in the U.S.

Both studies were controversial at the time and changed how economists understand both immigration and minimum wage, but Card said he doesn’t think they’ll amount to much policy change in the U.S.

“Things change in the United States not necessarily based on the direction of scientific research,” he said. “I’m not too optimistic about that.”

Card added that the studies don’t necessarily translate to Canada either.

“To some extent, the situation is quite a bit different in Canada,” he said. “First of all, Canada has many, many more immigrants and a more diverse set of immigrants who’ve been pretty successful, for the most part. Minimum wage in Canada is probably a little bit less controversial of an issue and it’s controlled by the provinces. So it’s a little bit different scenario.”

The award comes with a gold medal and more than US$1.14 million in Swedish currency. He’s also been awarded an honourary parking spot at UC Berkeley, though he has little use for it.

“I have to say, one of the benefits of living in California relative to where I grew up in Guelph is there really isn’t much of a winter here,” he said. “I’m able to ride my bike every day.”

Card’s next bit of research relates to immigrants to Canada who’ve started businesses in their new home country. He is scheduled to go through the initial results next week.

With files from The Associated Press

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