Houthakker, Hendrik S. 1924–2008

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Houthakker, Hendrik S. 1924–2008

(H.S. Houthakker, Hank Houthakker, Hendrik Houthakker, Hendrik Samuel Houthakker)


See index for CA sketch: Born December 31, 1924, in Amsterdam, Netherlands; died of complications from myasthenia gravis, April 15, 2008, in Lebanon, NH. Economist, educator, consultant, editor, and author. Houthakker was an expert on the factors that influence consumers to spend their money and make spending choices. In 1963, about a dozen years after he immigrated to the United States, Houthakker's theories on consumer spending earned him the John Bates Clark Medal of the American Economic Association. His analyses of income, prices, and household demographics had convinced him that choices based on need or usefulness can be weighed against choices based on personal preference, and that sometimes the bases of choice are almost equal in weight. It was not long before his services as a predictor of consumer spending patterns were recognized, and Houthakker's theories came to the attention of political policymakers. In the late 1960s, he was even a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisors under President Richard M. Nixon. After that he spent a few years with the National Commission on Supplies and Shortages. Houthakker spent most of his career as an academic, however, including nearly thirty-five years at Harvard University, where he retired in 1994 as the Henry Lee Professor of Economics. For two decades he also served as the editor of the Review of Economics and Statistics. Houthakker was incidentally a personal acquaintance of Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, later Pope John Paul II, and he lectured occasionally at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome. Houthakker's writings reflected his expertise regarding consumer economics and finance. His books include The Analysis of Family Budgets (1955), Household Investment in Automobiles (1959), Consumer Demand in the U.S. (1966), The World Price of Oil: A Medium-Term Analysis (1976), and The Economics of Financial Markets (1996).



Phlips, Louis, and Lester D. Taylor, editors, Aggregation, Consumption, and Trade: Essays in Honor of H.S. Houthakker, Kluwer Academic Publishers (Boston, MA), 1992.


Los Angeles Times, May 1, 2008, p. B7.

Washington Post, April 23, 2008, p. B7.