Harford, Tim 1973–

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Harford, Tim 1973–


Born September 27, 1973; married; children: two daughters.


Home—London, England. E-mail—[email protected].


Financial Times, London, England, columnist, beginning 2003. Also has been a scenario expert for the Shell Oil Co. and an economist at the International Finance Corp., part of the World Bank.


Peter Martin fellow.


(With Michael Klein) The Market for Aid, International Finance (Washington, DC), 2005.

The Undercover Economist: Exposing Why the Rich Are Rich, the Poor Are Poor—and Why You Can Never Buy a Decent Used Car!, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2006.

The Logic of Life: The Rational Economics of an Irrational World, Random House (New York, NY), 2008.

Author of columns "The Dear Economist" and "The Undercover Economist" for the Financial Times and Slate. Also writer and presenter for the BBC 2 television series Trust Me, I'm an Economist. Contributor to periodicals, including Forbes, and to National Public Radio's Marketplace. The Undercover Economist has been translated into sixteen languages.


Tim Harford is a journalist and writer who specializes in economics. Through his articles and his columns for the Financial Times, he has become known for his ability to write about economics in an entertaining way for the general public. He has also authored or coauthored several books about economics and is known for his ability to write about "popular economics" in a manner that uncovers the inherent links between economics, company performance, and everyday life.

Harford's first book, written with Michael Klein while the two worked for the World Bank, is The Market for Aid. Here the authors analyze the modern aid industry and argue that it is changing, with added pressure being put on aid organizations by both donors and recipients. The authors examine how the chaos of competition and the search for new ideas have frightening aspects and also risk harming the people the industry is supposed to benefit. However, the authors also write about the tremendous opportunity to harness competition to improve performance and develop better approaches for helping the poor. In closing, Harford and Klein argue for a rigorous evaluation of aid organizations and the creative use of the private sector to further develop the aid industry.

The author aims his next book, The Undercover Economist: Exposing Why the Rich Are Rich, the Poor Are Poor—and Why You Can Never Buy a Decent Used Car!, at the general public. In it he explains the fundamental principles of modern economics. "As indicated in the subtitle there are interesting takes on broader subjects as well, including China's exploding economy, the environment, the Internet," wrote Tom Prebasco in the Indianapolis Business Journal. In addition, the author discusses the economic principles that lie behind daily events, from the traffic jams people sit in on highways to higher coffee and oil prices.

Harford also writes about what supermarkets do not want consumers to know, why poor countries are poor, and how China has grown rich. In the process, he discusses how large corporations are raking in cash from people's wallets. He dispels many of the beliefs and myths concerning modern economic controversies, such as the high cost of health care, and reveals why sometimes landlords welcome environmental laws that benefit them more than the environment. In his discussion of high profits in industry, Harford explains why sometimes huge profits are innocent in nature but how they can also have a sinister reason behind them. Overall, Harford provides readers with a discussion of how modern economic forces shape their daily lives.

"This combination of economics and everyday makes for fresh perspectives and thought-provoking analysis of situations," wrote a contributor to Management Today in a review of The Undercover Economist. "Harford says in his book that he hopes to make consumers more savvy by helping them to view the world like an economist. I reckon he succeeds—and he makes the economics fun." Noting that the author "is quizzical and low-key, rather than bombastic and judgmental," a contributor to the Economist went on to write: "For anyone schooled in blackboard economics, The Undercover Economist succeeds in taking the chalk-dust out of the subject."

Harford's next book, The Logic of Life: The Rational Economics of an Irrational World, was called "a fascinating study of how society is shaped by hidden pay-offs and punishments" by a contributor to the Economist. The author points out that hidden incentives are behind most aspects of life and society, and he focuses on people rather than data to show how economics affects our lives in unusual ways. Harford explores how life often seems illogical, with people doing such illogical things as taking drugs and having unprotected sex. However, he goes on to look at the larger picture of life and presents his case that it is inherently logical, especially in terms of economic outcomes, whose principles influence almost everything. For example, he points out that marriages reflects the market in terms of its relationship to supply (availability) and demand (true love).

In an interview with Kirk Shinkle in the U.S. News & World Report, Harford commented that people are logical and rational in their lives "more than people would expect," adding: "When you put people in familiar circumstances—their work, doing shopping, their relationships—they make better decisions, often in an unconscious way." The author also told Shinkle that in this book he is "trying to apply the same logic to things people never think of as being economic, such as crime, racism, dating and divorce, office politics, real politics, the way cities work, etc. What you come up with is often very surprising." New Statesman contributor Mario Pisani wrote: "Harford's new book is overwhelmingly about one concept: rationality. He offers a simple and attractive definition: rational people will make decisions based on the costs and benefits of a specific choice, the effect on their total budget, and the future consequences of their actions."

In The Logic of Life, Harford also provides information on modern economics research, from experiments with animals to supercomputer simulations, all of which seek to unlock the secrets of society. He points out the best insights made by modern economists and economic research, as well as the areas in which economists have failed to provide any understanding of society and the human condition. The author presents his information through numerous anecdotes about people, from the athlete who survived a murder attempt to the king who tried to buy off revolutionaries.

"Mr. Harford has a knack for explaining economic principles and problems in plain language and, even better, for making them fun," wrote William Grimes in a review of The Logic of Life in the New York Times Book Review. "He loves to overturn conventional thinking on matters as small as playing a poker hand and as large as the reasons behind the Industrial Revolution." David Siegfried, writing in Booklist, called the book "a fascinating work with many ‘aha’ moments."



Booklist, February 1, 2008, David Siegfried, review of The Logic of Life: The Rational Economics of an Irrational World, p. 9.

Cato Journal, winter, 2006, Robert Formaini, review of The Undercover Economist: Exposing Why the Rich Are Rich, the Poor Are Poor—and Why You Can Never Buy a Decent Used Car!, p. 204.

Choice, October, 2006, A.R. Sanderson, review of The Undercover Economist, p. 343.

Detroit Free Press, December 7, 2005, Marta Salij, review of The Undercover Economist.

Economist, November 5, 2005, "Gumshoe Economics; Why Things Cost What They Cost," review of The Undercover Economist, p. 91; February 23, 2008, "How to Get a Lover and Win at Poker; Economics," review of The Logic of Life, p. 102.

Indianapolis Business Journal, July 24, 2006, Tom Probasco, review of The Undercover Economist, p. 46.

Journal of Economic Literature, December, 2005, review of The Market for Aid, p. 1108.

Library Journal, November 1, 2005, Lawrence R. Maxted, review of The Undercover Economist, p. 94.

Management Today, March 1, 2006, "Books: Everyday Ways to Squeeze More Profit," review of The Undercover Economist, p. 32; February 1, 2008, "Books: Brilliant Insights of the Dismal Science," review of The Logic of Life, p. 29.

New Statesman, February 18, 2008, Mario Pisani, "How Economics Lightened Up: Until Recently Economics, the Dismal Science, Was Considered a Subject without Much Popular Appeal, but a New Generation of Economists Has Dragged It out of the Academy and into the Heart of Our Messy Everyday Lives," review of The Logic of Life, p. 54.

New York Times Book Review, January 25, 2008, William Grimes, "Those Sweet Mysteries of Life, Deciphered," review of The Logic of Life.

New Zealand Management, December, 2006, Ian F. Grant, review of The Undercover Economist, p. 26.

Publishers Weekly, December 24, 2007, review of The Logic of Life, p. 43.

Telecom Asia, December, 2006, "Economics Unplugged," review of The Undercover Economist, p. 58.

Times Higher Education Supplement, October 13, 2006, Alan Shipman, "Who Can Explain, Not Just Complain?," review of The Undercover Economist, p. 27.

Times Literary Supplement, July 13, 2007, Alex Danchev, review of The Undercover Economist, p. 28.

USA Today, March 10, 2008, Kerry Hannon, "There's a Reason Why Your Boss Is Overpaid," p. 07.

U.S. News & World Report, January 16, 2008, Kirk Shinkle, "Q&A: Tim Harford"; January 28, 2008, Krik Shinkle, "The Beauty of Everyday Economics," author interview, p. 14.


Financial Times Online,http://www.ft.com/ (April 12, 2008), brief author profile.

Leigh Bureau Web site,http://www.leighbureau.com/ (April 12, 2008), author profile.

Property Grunt,http://propertygrunt.blogspot.com/ (November 2, 2005), author interview.

Random House,http://www.randomhouse.com/ (April 12, 2008), brief author profile.

Tim Harford Home Page,http://www.timharford.com (April 12, 2008).

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