- Kenneth Arrow
name = Kenneth J. Arrow
caption = National Medal of Science award ceremony, 2004
image_size = 180px
birth_date = Birth date and age|1921|8|23
New York City, New York, USA
City College of New York Columbia University
doctoral_students = John C. Harsanyi Nobel
Roger MyersonNobel A. Michael Spence Nobel Eric S. MaskinNobel Nancy Stokey
known_for = General equilibrium theory
Fundamental theorems of welfare economics Arrow's impossibility theorem Endogenous growth theory
John Bates Clark Medal(1957) Nobel Prize in Economics(1972) von Neumann Theory Prize(1986) National Medal of Science(2004)
Kenneth Joseph Arrow (born
August 23, 1921) is an American economistand joint winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economicswith John Hicksin 1972. To date, he is the youngest person to receive this award, at 51. In economics, he is considered as one of the founders of modern (i.e. post- World War II) neo-classical economic theory. Many of his former graduate students have gone on to win the Nobel Memorial Prize themselves.
His most significant works are his contributions to
social choice theory, notably " Arrow's impossibility theorem", and his work on general equilibriumanalysis. He has also provided foundational work in many other areas of economics, including endogenous growth theoryand the economics of information.
He graduated from
Townsend Harris High Schooland then earned a Bachelor's degreefrom the City College of New Yorkin 1940. At Columbia University, he received a Master's degreein 1941. From 1946 to 1949 he spent his time partly as a graduate student at Columbia and partly as a research associate at the Cowles Commission for Research in Economicsat the University of Chicago. During that time he also held the rank of Assistant Professor in Economics at the University of Chicago. In 1951 he earned his Ph.D. from Columbia. He is currently the Joan Kenney Professor of Economics and Professor of Operations Research, Emeritus at Stanford University. He was one of the recipients of the 2004 National Medal of Science, the nation's highest scientific honor, presented by President George W. Bush for his contributions to research on the problem of making decisions using imperfect information and his research on bearing risk. He is also a founding member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. Ken Arrow's impact on the economics profession has been tremendous. For more than fifty years he has been one of the most listened to of all practicing economists.
He is a trustee of the Economists for Peace and Security. He was a convening lead author for the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Arrow's impossibility theorem
Arrow's monograph "
Social Choice and Individual Values" derives from his Ph.D. thesis. In it he sets out a key result (in one final form).
General Possibility Theorem: It is impossible to formulate a social preference ordering that satisfies the following conditions (paraphrased):
#Unrestricted Domain: For each state X and Y, based on the social preference ordering, society prefers either state X to Y or Y to X. i.e. society can compare any pair of candidates (
#Unanimity: If everyone in society prefers a to b, then society should prefer a to b.
#Non-Dictatorship: Societal preferences cannot be based on the preferences of only one person regardless of the preferences of other agents and of that person.
#Transitive Property: If society prefers (based on social rule aggregation of individual preferences) state X to Y and prefers Y to Z then society prefers X to Z.
#Independence of Irrelevant Alternatives: If for some X, Y, and Z, X is preferred to Y, then changing the position in the ordering of Z does not affect the relative ordering of X and Y i.e. X is still preferred to Y. In other words, changing the position of Z in the preference ordering should not be allowed to "flip" the social choice between X and Y.
#Universality: Any possible individual rankings of alternatives is permissible.
The theorem has tremendous implications for
welfare economicsand theories of justice. It was extended by Amartya Sento the liberal paradoxwhich argued that given a status of "Minimal Liberty" there was no way to obtain Pareto optimality, nor to avoid the problem of social choice of neutral but unequal results.
An example of this would be to have the following choices to divide a cake between three people. Let us call them A, B and C.
Choice 1: A gets nothing, B and C get half each.Choice 2: B gets nothing, A and C get half each.Choice 3: C gets nothing, A and B get half each.Choice 4: divide the cake equally.
Thus choice 4 would be third from the top in everyone's list, and would, in any direct choice lose 2 to 1 against an unequal distribution. Since all of these choices are Pareto-optimal - no one's welfare can be improved without reducing the welfare of others - choice 4 would not be chosen, since there would always be other preferred choices.
General equilibrium theory
Gerard Debreu(who won the Nobel prize for this work in 1983), Arrow produced the first rigorous proof of the existence of a market clearing equilibrium, given certain restrictive assumptions. See general equilibrium. Arrow went on to extend the model to deal with issues relating to uncertainty, stability of the equilibrium, and whether a competitive equilibrium is efficient.
Endogenous growth theory
Arrow was instrumental in kick-starting research into
endogenous growth theory(also known as "new growth theory") which sought to explain the source of technical change, which is a key driver of economic growth. Until this theory came to prominence, technical change was assumed to occur exogenously - that is, it was assumed to occur with no explanation of "why" it occurred. Endogenous growth theory provided standard economic reasons for why firms innovate - so innovation and technical change are determined endogenously - that is, within the model (hence the name). A vast literature on this theory has developed subsequently to Arrow's pioneering work.
In other pioneering research, Arrow investigated the problems caused by
asymmetric informationin markets. In many transactions, one party (usually the seller) has more information about the product being sold than the other party. Asymmetric information creates incentives for the party with more information to cheat the party with less information; as a result, a number of market structures have developed, including warranties and third party authentication, which enable markets with asymmetric information to function. Arrow analysed this issue for medical care (a 1963 paper entitled "Uncertainty and the Welfare Economics of Medical Care," in the American Economic Review); later researchers investigated many other markets, particularly second-hand assets, online auctions and insurance.
* 1951, “Alternative approaches to the theory of choice in risk-taking situations,” Econometrica, 19: 404-437
*cite book |author=Arrow, Kenneth J. |title=Social Choice and Individual Values |year=1951 |publisher= Wiley, New York |id=ISBN 0-300-01364-7 2nd ed. 1963
* 1953, “Hurwicz’s optimality criterion for decision making under ignorance,” Technical Report 6, Stanford University
*cite journal |author=Arrow, Kenneth J. and
Gerard Debreu|title=Existence of a Competitive Equilibrium for a Competitive Economy |journal= Econometrica|year=1954 |volume=22 |issue=3 |pages=265–90|doi=10.2307/1907353
* 1959, “Functions of a theory of behaviour under uncertainty,” Metroeconomica, 11: 12-20
* 1959, “Toward a Theory of Price Adjustment.” In Moses Abramovitz et al., eds. The Allocation of Economic Resources: Essays in Honor of Bernard Francis Haley. Stanford: Stanford University Press
*cite journal |author=Arrow, Kenneth J. |title=The Economic Implications of Learning by Doing |journal=Review of Economic Studies|year=1962 |volume=29 |pages=155–73 |doi=10.2307/2295952
*cite journal |author=Arrow, Kenneth J. |title=Uncertainty and the Welfare Economics of Medical Care |journal=
American Economic Review|year=1963 |volume=53 |issue=5 |pages=941–73
* 1968, “Economic Equilibrium.” In D. L. Sills (ed.) International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences 4: 376–88. London and New York: Macmillan and the Free Press.
*cite book |author=Arrow, Kenneth J. |title=Essays in the Theory of Risk-Bearing |year=1971 |publisher=North-Holland Pub. Co., Amsterdam |id=ISBN 072043047X
*cite book |author=Arrow, Kenneth J. and
Frank Hahn|title=General Competitive Analysis |year=1971 |publisher=Holden-Day, San Francisco |id=ISBN 0816202753
* 1972, and Hurwicz, L., “Decision making under ignorance,” in C. F. Carter and J.L. Ford (eds.), Uncertainty and Expectations in Economics. Essays in Honour of G.L.S. Shackle. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
*cite book |author=Arrow, Kenneth J. |title=The Limits of Organization |year=1974 |publisher=Norton, New York |id=ISBN 0-393-09323-9
* 1987, “Rationality of self and others in an economic system,” in R. M. Hogarth and M. W. Reder (eds.), Rational Choice. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
*Arrow, Kenneth J. "Arrow's theorem."
The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2nd Edition. Eds. Steven N. Durlauf and Lawrence E. Blume. Palgrave Macmillan Publishing, 2008.
*Arrow, Kenneth J. "Hotelling, Harold (1895–1973)."
The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2nd Edition. Eds. Steven N. Durlauf and Lawrence E. Blume, Palgrave Macmillan Publishing, 2008.
*"Landmark Papers in General Equilibrium Theory, Social Choice and Welfare Selected by Kenneth J. Arrow and Gérard Debreu" ed. with Debreu, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2002) ISBN 978 1 84064 569 9.
Learning by doing
List of economists
List of think tanks
* [http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog/ARRCO1.html Collected Papers of Kenneth J. Arrow]
* [http://cowles.econ.yale.edu/P/cm/m12-2/index.htm Social Choice and Individual Values]
* [http://www.adeptis.ru/vinci/e_part2_3.html Photos of Kenneth Arrow]
* [http://ideas.repec.org/e/par7.html IDEAS/RePEc]
NAME= Arrow, Kenneth
SHORT DESCRIPTION= Economist
DATE OF BIRTH=
August 23, 1921
PLACE OF BIRTH=
New York City
DATE OF DEATH=
PLACE OF DEATH=
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.