Annual Dinner 2009
Honoring Charles Murray

Charles Murray Receives 2009 Irving Kristol Award

The eminent social scientist and writer Charles Murray has been selected to receive the American Enterprise Institute's Irving Kristol Award for 2009. He will receive the award and deliver the Irving Kristol Lecture, entitled "The Happiness of the People," at the Institute's annual dinner on March 11, 2009, at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Twenty-five years ago, Mr. Murray's Losing Ground: American Social Policy 1950–1980 (1984) produced a sea change in thinking about poverty, culture, and the effectiveness of social welfare programs, yielding many eventual improvements, including the Welfare Reform Act of 1996. Losing Ground set a high standard for serious intellectual discourse on difficult policy problems--combining sophisticated empirical analysis, bold originality, practical field experience, and lucid exposition to a startling degree. It was remarkable, also, for transcending standard liberal and conservative political positions, and for harnessing analytical technique to an overriding concern for the real-life circumstances of ordinary citizens, especially those living in poverty.

These features of Mr. Murray's first major work have been replicated many times since, most famously in The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life (with Richard J. Herrnstein, 1994). Like Losing Ground, The Bell Curve provoked intense, often angry controversy at first, but its arguments were then strongly fortified by subsequent research and thinking, and in important respects have now become conventional wisdom. Mr. Murray's other books range from political philosophy (In Pursuit: Of Happiness and Good Government, 1988) to political polemics (What It Means to be a Libertarian, 1997) to policy reform (In Our Hands: A Plan to Replace the Welfare State, 2006). The uncategorizeable Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950 (2003) stands apart for its intellectual audacity and ambition. His latest book, Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America’s Schools Back to Reality (2008), which combines his longstanding interests in differences in innate abilities and institutional reform, has once again produced spirited controversy and confounded established positions--perhaps once again presaging an eventual new consensus.

Mr. Murray's great influence as a public intellectual has been augmented by a steady stream of technical papers in professional journals and books, essays in general-audience journals and magazines, and op-ed articles in leading newspapers, and by frequent lectures throughout the United States, Europe, and elsewhere. His curriculum vitae is posted at

Charles Murray was raised in Newton, Iowa, graduated from Harvard College in 1965, and received his Ph.D. in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1974. After college he spent six years in Thailand working on rural development efforts, first as a Peace Corps Volunteer and later under contract for the U.S. Agency for International Development. From 1974–1981 he was a scientist (eventually chief scientist) at the American Institutes for Research, where he did field work and authored several studies of urban education and criminal justice policies. He was a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research from 1982 to 1990. Since 1990 he has been a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, where he now holds the W. H. Brady Chair in Culture and Freedom.

Mr. Murray and his wife, Catherine Bly Cox, have two children, Anna and Bennett, and he also has two children from a previous marriage, Narisara and Sarawan. Ms. Cox was Mr. Murray's coauthor on Apollo (1989), their history of how America got to the moon.


The Irving Kristol Award recognizes individuals who have made extraordinary intellectual or practical contributions to improved government policy or social welfare. The award was established in 2002 in honor of AEI senior fellow Irving Kristol, replacing the Institute's Francis Boyer Award, which had been awarded annually for the previous twenty-five years. The Kristol Award is selected by AEI's Council of Academic Advisers (information about the Council is posted at A list of recipients appears at, as do most of the Irving Kristol and Francis Boyer Lectures.


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