Bob Gregory on how polio changed his life–and inspired him as a student

"The Work Goes On"—a podcast produced as Princeton's Industrial Relations Section (IR Section) celebrates its 100th anniversary—is an oral history of industrial relations and labor economics hosted by Princeton's Orley Ashenfelter. The episode in its entirety is available on Princeton's website here.

Bob Gregory, Professor Emeritus at the Research School of Economics at Australian National University, joins the podcast to discuss how getting polio at fourteen years old affected his life trajectory, why he fell in love with economics, and his many contributions as a public servant.

In this episode, Gregory and Ashenfelter discuss:

  • How getting polio at fourteen years old–and spending a year in bed– inspired Gregory to pursue excellence in academics. “It changed my life,” Gregory said of the experience.
  • Gregory’s experience as the first in his family to attend school past age fourteen, and why he decided to pursue a Ph.D. abroad after earning a degree in accounting from Melbourne University. “Think of economics as going into a jungle and looking for new animals. The jungle was the data. It was very, very exciting. [It gave me a] completely different view of the world.”
  • Gregory’s various roles in public service for the Australian government, which began with his service on the Tariff Board and led to his eventual appointment to the Australian Reserve Bank Board.
  • Gregory’s research on labor issues, tariffs, and export shocks.
  • The important role immigration plays in Australian society. “Every second person you meet…is either an immigrant or has one parent who's an immigrant. That's an extraordinary number. So, we are a very different sort of place.”

Bob Gregory earned his Ph.D. from the London School of Economics (LSE) in 1967. From 1985-1995, he was a member of the Board of the Reserve Bank of Australia, and from 1986-91 he was a member of the Australian Sciences and Technology Council. In 1996 Professor Gregory was awarded the Order of Australia Medal.

Orley Ashenfelter’s areas of specialization include labor economics, econometrics, and law and economics. His current research includes the cross-country measurement of wage rates, and many other issues related to the economics of labor markets.

Prof. Ashenfelter has been the director of the Industrial Relations Section at Princeton University, director of the Office of Evaluation of the U.S. Department of Labor, a Guggenheim Fellow, and the Benjamin Meeker Visiting Professor at the University of Bristol. He is a recipient of the IZA Prize in Labor Economics, the Mincer Award for Lifetime Achievement of the Society of Labor Economists, and the Karel Englis Medal awarded by the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic.