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 VOL. 23, NO. 20APRIL 10, 1998 

Harvard Economist Robert Barro to Join Columbia

(See Follow-up: Barro to Remain at Harvard)

Robert J. Barro


Robert J. Barro, one of today’s most influential economists, is leaving Harvard to join the faculty of Columbia, where he will hold joint appointments in the economics department and the Business School, it was announced by President George Rupp on Tuesday.

  Barro, 53, who has taught at Harvard since 1987, is a pioneering thinker in the field of empirical macroeconomics. His groundbreaking research in the determinants of economic growth, employment and inflation and on monetary policy, business cycles, taxation and personal savings are helping to shape national economic policy. He is often mentioned as a likely future Nobel Prize winner.

  His application of principles of market theory have influenced key realms in public policy debates. In 11 books and scores of articles in academic journals, newspapers and magazines, he has explored the economic impact of policy decisions affecting the gamut of government programs and issues, including social security, taxes, welfare, school choice, deficit reduction and the minimum wage.

  His fourth book, Macroeconomics (MIT Press: 5th edition, 1997), has been translated into six languages and is widely used in the classroom. Economic Growth (McGraw Hill: 1995) written with Xavier Sala-i-Martin, also a Columbia professor, is viewed as an essential guidebook for thinking in this field.

  Beyond economic circles, he is known to a wider public as a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and more recently as a columnist for Business Week. He has tackled subjects as diverse as school choice, legalization of drugs and the United States foray into Somalia. In his debut “Economic Viewpoint” column in March, he made the case for physical appearance being as legitimate a job qualification as intelligence and experience “to the extent that it is valued by customers or co-workers.” “I believe the only meaningful measure of productivity is the amount a worker adds to customer satisfaction and to the happiness of co-workers,” he wrote. His next column will deal with economic growth in East Asia.

  “Professor Barro’s appointment is a major step in our plan to restore our Department of Economics to its position of preeminence,” said Rupp. “His addition to our group of distinguished senior scholars will help attract some of the nation’s leading young economists to Columbia.”

  Columbia is in the midst of revitalizing the social sciences. Economics has been targeted for enhancement both because of the department’s historical strengths and because it is the leading undergraduate major. Other departments in which significant appointments have been made include anthropology, in which a new chairman was hired, Nicholas Dirks, who specializes in India, in addition to other top faculty, including Sherry Ortner, winner of a MacArthur “genius” grant, and E. Valentine Daniel, who also serves as director of the South Asian Institute. In political science, the world-renowned political theorist Jon Elster has joined Columbia from the University of Chicago.

  Barro will join the Columbia faculty on July 1 as the Wesley Clair Mitchell Professor of Economics in the Arts and Sciences. He will jointly hold a faculty appointment in the finance and economics division of Columbia Business School.

  Barro said: “My move is part of a great adventure aimed at enhancing the stature of economics at Columbia. I also look forward to returning to my birthplace, New York City, at a time when the City is enjoying a remarkable boom.”

  Provost Jonathan R. Cole said the appointment of Barro “signals our absolute commitment to preeminence in the social sciences. The news of his acceptance of a position here has already travelled around the Internet and created excitement about economics at Columbia, precisely the kind of enthusiasm that we hoped would attend his appointment. Columbia has been the home for giants in the field of economics. Professor Barro’s appointment brings another giant in the field to Morningside Heights. We expect his presence to attract some of the brightest young students and faculty to Columbia in the years to come.”

  Vice President for Arts and Sciences David Cohen said: “The appointment of Robert Barro is an extraordinary development in the ongoing effort of the Arts and Sciences to enhance research and teaching in the social sciences. The economics department is particularly salient in this effort, both because of the centrality of the field and the intense demand by our undergraduates. The impact of attracting a scholar of Robert Barro’s stature is indeed incalculable.”

  Dean Meyer Feldberg of Columbia Business School called Barro “a true leader in his field. His research on growth and monetary policy is expertly translated to the practical, as he applies concepts to pertinent public issues. Columbia Business School prides itself on imparting real-world knowledge, and Barro will be an incredible resource for our students.”

  Professor Richard Clarida, chairman of the economics department, said Barro played a key role in attracting new talent to the Harvard economics department. “He’s always enjoyed and demonstrated a talent for building departments and mentoring young faculty,” said Clarida. “In addition to his status as one of the preeminent economists of our day, this particular talent will be an important strength for us.”

  The endowed professorship he will assume at Columbia was named for Wesley Clair Mitchell, who founded the National Bureau. Before Harvard, Barro taught at Rochester, Chicago and Brown.

  He earned the B.S. in physics in 1965 from CalTech and the Ph.D. in economics at Harvard.

(See Follow-up: Barro to Remain at Harvard)