Great Economists Since Petty and Boisguilbert
Edited by Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz
Chapter 123: George Akerlof (b. 1940)
George Akerlof was born in Newhaven (Connecticut, USA) on 17 June 1940. His father was a Swedish immigrant and his mother was from a family that had immigrated from Germany. He received his BA at Yale University in 1962, and his PhD at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1966. He spent the whole of his career at the University of California at Berkeley, with some breaks at the Indian Statistical Institute (1967–68), the Council of Economic Advisors (1973–74), the Federal Reserve Board (1977–78) and the London School of Economics (1978–80). He was a joint recipient of the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel in 2001, with Michael Spence and Joseph Stiglitz. Akerlof is one of the most original economic theorists in recent times – beginning with “The market for lemons” (1970), the paper for which he received the above mentioned Nobel prize, to his last book Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism (co-authored with Robert Shiller 2009). What is remarkable is the gradual emergence of a new paradigm in economics, which is by now quite explicit but which could not be expected, when reading his 1970 paper. The importance of information asymmetries (of which he was one of the three modern “discoverers”, as the 2001 Bank of Sweden Prize committee rightly acknowledges) could have driven him towards the waters of the nowadays standard mainstream economics, with its extreme hypotheses on calculative...
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