© The Nobel Foundation
George A. Akerlof

American Jewish Recipients of the Nobel Prize

George A. Akerlof: Nobel Prize
in Economics Recipient-2001

by Seymour “Sy” Brody

George A. Akerlof is an American Jewish recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2001, which he shared with Joseph E. Stiglitz and A. Michael Spence for their analyses of markets with asymmetric information.

He was born on June 17, 1940, in New Haven, Connecticut. His father, was Swedish and a chemist on the Yale faculty and his mother was a housewife. She was a student at Yale when she met his father. They married and they had two sons, Carl and Michael.

His mother came from an academic family and her parents were of German Jewish descent. Her grandfather was denied tenure at John Hopkins University, because he was Jewish. He had established here the first clinic in cardiology in the United States. He became the chairman of the Department of Pharmacology at the University at the University of Minnesota. Michael’s great-grandfather, who was born in Oakland, California, graduated Berkeley in 1873.

Akerlof graduated from the Lawrenceville School and then enrolled in Yale. His first two years were spent taking liberal arts’ courses and working on the Yale Daily News. He then he studied history and economics. He received his B.A. degree in 1962. He went to MIT where he received his Ph.D., in 1966.

He received an Assistant Professorship at the University of California, Berkeley. In his first year at Berkeley, he wrote “Market for Lemons” which was the basis for his Nobel Prize.

In 1967-68, he took a sabbatical from Berkeley to spend a year at the Indian Statistical Institute in New Delhi, India. When he returned to Berkeley, they refused to make him a full professor, because they felt that he didn’t have enough scholarly writings to his credit.

George Akerlof’s current wife, Janet Yellin was president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and a professor of economics at the University of California. She also served on President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors. George Akerlof is a trustee of the Economists for Peace and Security.

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