Arrow, Kenneth Joseph

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ARROW, KENNETH JOSEPH (1921– ), U.S. economist and Nobel laureate. Arrow was born in New York and received his doctorate from Columbia University in 1951. He was appointed professor of economics and statistics at Stanford University, California, in 1953. Appointed in 1962 to the Council of Economic Advisors of the Executive Office of the President of the United States, he was a consultant for the rand Corporation from 1948 on, which he refers to as "the heady days of emerging game theory and mathematical programming."

He received the John Bates Clark Medal of the American Economic Association in 1957 and was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. He was a fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge, in 1963–64 and 1970, and was appointed professor of economics at Harvard (1968–79). In 1979 he returned to Stanford University, where he held the title of Professor Emeritus in the Department of Economics.

His most significant works are his contributions to social choice theory, notably Arrow's "impossibility theorem," and his work on general equilibrium analysis. For his specialized work in welfare economics and general equilibrium theory, Arrow was awarded the 1972 Nobel Memorial Prize in economic sciences. His impossibility theorem, also known as "Arrow's paradox," shows the impossibility of designing rules for social decisionmaking that obey all of a number of "reasonable" criteria. The general equilibrium theory, a branch of theoretical microeconomics, seeks to explain production, consumption, and prices in a whole economy. It attempts to give an understanding of the whole economy using a bottom-up (as opposed to a Keynesian macroeconomic top-down) approach, starting with individual markets and agents. Working with 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.

Among Arrow's numerous publications are Social Choice and Individual Values (1951); Studies in Linear and Nonlinear Programming (with L. Hurwicz and H. Uzawa, 1958); A Time Series Analysis of Interindustry Demands (with M. Hoffenberg, 1959); Essays in the Theory of Risk-Bearing (1971); General Competitive Analysis (1972); The Limits of Organization (1974); The Economics of Information (1984); Handbook of Mathematical Economics (1984); General Equilibrium (1984); The Balance between Industry and Agriculture in Economic Development (1988); Barriers to Conflict Resolution (1995); and Saving Lives, Buying Time: Economics of Malaria Drugs in an Age of Resistance (2004). Six volumes of his collected papers were published in 1984–85 and three volumes of essays in his honor (W.P. Heller, D.A. Starrett, and R.M. Starr, eds.) appeared in 1986, dealing, respectively, with equilibrium analysis, social choice and public decisionmaking, and uncertainty information and communications.

[Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]