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John Einmahl new holder of Arie Kapteyn Chair

Published: 28th June 2019 Last updated: 28th June 2019

The Arie Kapteyn Chair [1] has a new incumbent. On June 24, 2019, Rik Pieters passed the baton to John Einmahl. Pieters reflects, Einmahl offers a preview.

Rik Pieters looks back

Arie Kapteyn was one of the originators of behavorial economics and together with others succeeded in putting Tilburg University and TiSEM on the global map. He is an example to us all. It is a singular privilege and a great honor to hold the chair that carries his name, and I have felt that way from the very beginning.

The chair has increased my awareness of my responsibility as a researcher and lecturer. Fundamental research and practically relevant research go hand in hand. With my research into socially sensitive issues, such as smoking during pregnancy, using erotic services, and online gambling, I tread in Arie’s footsteps.

The additional funding that became available through the chair has enabled me to collect large and unique data files that contain such information as stress-linked hormonal composition in consumer head hair. Such data are unique and offer new perspectives on consumer research that would otherwise have remained hidden from view.

Now the time has come to harvest the crops that were sown during my incumbency. What this means is “listen carefully to what the data say about the stories of real people.”

My message for my successor, John Einmahl, is this: “Enjoy the ride, and make it last.”’

John Einmahl looks ahead

Unlike Rik Pieters’s discipline, mine is very different from that of Arie Kapteyn: I am a mathematical statistician and within the field of statistics I work on nonparametric statistics, more specifically extreme value theory. Extreme values involve such events as huge stock market losses and massive insurance claims, but also questions such as ‘how long can we live?’, ‘how powerful can earthquakes be?’, or ‘how high should Dutch sea embankments be?’

This chair frees up time for research and I use the financial resources that come with it to devote more time to research.

To qualify for the chair, candidates must meet a number of requirements: high-quality publications, external visibility, and contributing to research development within TiSEM.

High-quality publications

‘What I aim for in my research is finding ‘the truth’ and I believe that the quality of my publications should therefore trump their quantity. That is in keeping with what the School expects and what Arie Kapteyn also considered to be vital. And that means publishing in journals with a high impact factor.’

External visibility

‘Most of my work revolves around theory, which is less visible in the outside world, because to the wider public it is tough going. Yet I have worked on two topics that did attract a great deal of media attention: about ten years ago Jan Magnus and I studied records in athletics, and recent research into the maximum life span of humans generated extensive media coverage both domestically and abroad.’

Contributing to research development within TiSEM

‘Statistics matters to the School, and for that reason I try to align my applications as much as possible with what goes on in the economy and in business. On a more practical level, I have coordinated econometrics research and I have chaired the School’s assessment committee.’

Annemeike Tan


[1] The Arie Kapteyn Chair is an honorable professorship that was created in part to stand as a tribute to Arie Kapteyn’s signal contribution to research at the Tilburg School of Economics and Management (TiSEM). The professorship is awarded to a researcher who has released many high-quality publications, has prominent external visibility, and whose research has a high impact factor. The Arie Kapteyn Professor must also have made a marked contribution to the development of research at TiSEM. The chair rotates every three years and comes with a research budget.

Arie Kapteyn chair