Jefferson Scholars Foundation and UVA’s College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences announce the appointment of economist Alexander MacKay

July 8, 2024

The Jefferson Scholars Foundation, in collaboration with the University of Virginia’s College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, proudly announces the appointment of notable economist Alexander MacKay as the James H. and Elizabeth W. Wright Jefferson Scholars Foundation Distinguished Professor, pending Board of Visitors approval.

MacKay joins the Department of Economics from Harvard Business School, where he was an associate professor of business administration and co-leader of the Pricing Lab at the Digital, Data, and Design Institute. An influential scholar of the economics of competition and other topics in industrial organization, MacKay holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago and a B.A. in economics from the University of Virginia. 

“We are thrilled to welcome Professor MacKay back to Charlottesville,” said Jimmy Wright, president of the Jefferson Scholars Foundation. “His appointment highlights our dedication to fostering academic excellence at UVA, both in groundbreaking research and exemplary teaching.” 

MacKay’s research resides at the forefront of economics, combining theoretical frameworks with empirical analysis to uncover critical insights into price competition and consumer behavior. His investigations into strategic pricing decisions, influenced by algorithms, long-term contracts, vertical restraints, and shifting consuming preferences, bear significant implications for both business practices and regulatory policies and suggest new considerations for regulators when it comes to price competition. 

A key area of MacKay’s research is the evolution of consumer preferences and beliefs over time and their impact on firm pricing strategies. His analyses show how consumer behaviors, such as switching costs and intertemporal substitution, influence market dynamics in various contexts, including mergers, the adoption of new technologies, and longer-run sectoral shifts. 

MacKay’s research has been showcased in 16 scholarly publications and working papers as well as nine business cases. His influential work has garnered extensive recognition in his field and has been referenced by the Economic Report of the President and leading media outlets, including The New York Times, the Financial Times, TIME Magazine, and National Public Radio. 

Reflecting on his return to UVA, MacKay said, “The University of Virginia has some of the brightest minds among multiple disciplines. I’m eager to join this group of scholars and to teach economic tools that will provide students with new perspectives to understand the world.” 

At UVA, MacKay will continue to advance his pioneering research, contributing to the academic community’s understanding of complex economic phenomena. His presence is poised to elevate the University’s standing in addressing contemporary economic challenges. 

MacKay’s appointment drew praise from Robert C. Taylor Professor of Economics, Kenneth Elzinga, who has known MacKay since he was an undergraduate at UVA.

“It is a delight for me to observe the academic trajectory of Alex MacKay: from an undergraduate student at UVA, to graduate school at the University of Chicago, to the faculty at Harvard University and now to his ‘return home’ as a recipient of a James H. and Elizabeth W. Wright Jefferson Scholars Foundation Distinguished Professor,” Elzinga said. “Alex was an outstanding student at Mr. Jefferson’s University. He will now contribute to the mission of the University as a teacher and scholar.”