View alumni profile (log in required)
New York, New York
Place of Birth
B.A. Amherst College, 1964
Ph.D. in Economics, M.I.T., 1966-1967
Why did you choose to come to Amherst?
I came to Amherst because I wanted to go to a first rate small, liberal arts college—influenced a great deal by the wonderful experience that my brother Mark (’61) was having, and by a guidance counselor who believed that small liberal arts colleges provided the best education, and who thought that Amherst was the best small liberal arts college in the country.
Favorite (most memorable or most influential) class at Amherst:
I had so many great classes that it’s hard to pick one. Arnie Arons’s freshman physics class made a big impression on me (as it did on almost everyone.) So did Jim Nelson and Arnold Collery’s economic courses. Benjamin DeMott’s freshman English class was certainly memorable. And I often think about our freshman history class, and the discussion of the encounter of civilizations.
Favorite (most memorable or most influential) professor:
Arnold Collery was probably professor that had the most influence on me. I stayed in contact with him even after he left Amherst, to become dean of Columbia College.
My research interests continue to span a wide area. My Ph.D. thesis was on growth, stability, and income distribution, and this has continued to be an area of interest—reflected in my latest book. I also continue to work in the area for which I got the Nobel Prize, the consequences of imperfect and asymmetric information, focusing more recently on implications for macro-economics and for the functioning of capital markets. My research led to the conclusion that markets were often neither efficient nor stable—a conclusion strongly borne out by the 2008 crisis. (My book Freefall provides a more accessible version of some of my research on the crisis.) I have continued work in this area, focusing more recently on problems posed by contagion (the spread of problems from one country to another) and structural transformation.
One of my motivations for entering economics was an interest in developing countries, an interest I got to explore more deeply in the years as chief economist at the World Bank. I have stayed actively involved in the analysis of and debates on globalization, reflected in three of my more popular books: Globalization and Its Discontents, Making Globalization Work, and Fair Trade for All (with Andrew Charlton).
In the early 70’s, I became engaged in a number of research projects related to the environment and depletable natural resources, and I have continued my engagement in this area, both in the research and policy. (I serve on the Board of Resources for the Future.) In 1993, I became involved in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the international scientific body engaged in assessing the on-going changes in our economy (serving as a lead author of the 1995 report, which shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007).
More recently, I have become engaged in questions of how we measure economic performance and social progress, chairing an international commission established by President Nicolas Sarkozy of France.
Awards and Prizes
Selected Awards and Prizes
John Bates Clark Award, American Economic Association, 1979
Nobel Prize in Economics, 2001
Guggenheim Fellowship, 1969-70
International Prize of the Academia Lincei, 1988
UAP Scientific Prize, Paris, France, 1989
Rechtenwald Prize, Germany, 1998
Honorary Fellow, Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge, 2001
Fellow of the Econometric Society, 1972; American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1983; , National Academy of Science, 1988; American Philosophical Society, 1998
Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy, 1993; The Royal Society, Foreign Member, May 2009; Corresponding Academic, Royal Academy of Economic Sciences and Finance, Spain, September 2012.
John Kenneth Galbraith Award, American Agricultural Economics Association, August 2004
Lead author and member of the Steering Committee, Working Party 3, of the 1995 (Second Assessment), Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize
John F. Kennedy Memorial Fellowship, Fulbright New Zealand, March 2008
International Labour Organization, Decent Work Research Prize, June 2008
Francis Perkins Working People's Award, 2010
Orders awarded by foreign governments:
Legion of Honor, France, February 2012; Order of the Gran Cruz con Placa de Oro, Republica de Colombia, 2003; La Medalla de la Orden Nacional "Al Mérito," Ecuador, July 2006;
Awards for books and journalism:
Le Prix Européen du Livre d’Économie, First Prize, for Roaring Nineties, Paris, 2003
Bruno Kreisky Prize for Political Books, Vienna, 2003
Le Prix Manpower for Making Globalization Work, October 2007Gerald Loeb Award, Commentary category, June 2010.
Inaugural Rodney Wylie Eminent Visiting Fellow, University of Queensland, July 2010