Hornbeck is an authority in the field of American economic history; he looks at how the American economy has developed and what that can tell us about our current economic condition and how we can avoid economic disasters. In recent papers he has explored the railroad industry, black migration from the American South, and the long-term impact of the Dust Bowl, and the insight that each offers us today.
He joined the UChicago faculty as a professor and Neubauer Faculty Fellow in 2015 ,after a year as a visitor at Chicago Booth and the Department of Economics. He was a member of the Harvard faculty from 2009–15 and also held a visiting professorship at Stanford between 2009 and 2011. He was awarded a Sloan Research Fellowship for 2014–16.
Hornbeck received his bachelor's degree in economics at the University of Chicago and went on to earn his PhD at he Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His dissertation was called “Essay on the Development of the American Economy”.
On April 27, 2015, he presented at the Applications of Economics Workshop at 3:30 p.m. in SHFE 112.
Hornbeck visited the Becker Friedman Institute in spring quarter 2015 as the inaugural George Tolley Fellow.