The Most Famous

ECONOMISTS from United States

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This page contains a list of the greatest American Economists. The pantheon dataset contains 315 Economists, 107 of which were born in United States. This makes United States the birth place of the most number of Economists.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary American Economists of all time. This list of famous American Economists is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of American Economists.

Photo of Milton Friedman

1. Milton Friedman (1912 - 2006)

With an HPI of 80.89, Milton Friedman is the most famous American Economist.  His biography has been translated into 92 different languages on wikipedia.

Milton Friedman ( (listen); July 31, 1912 – November 16, 2006) was an American economist and statistician who received the 1976 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his research on consumption analysis, monetary history and theory and the complexity of stabilization policy. With George Stigler and others, Friedman was among the intellectual leaders of the Chicago school of economics, a neoclassical school of economic thought associated with the work of the faculty at the University of Chicago that rejected Keynesianism in favor of monetarism until the mid-1970s, when it turned to new classical macroeconomics heavily based on the concept of rational expectations. Several students, young professors and academics who were recruited or mentored by Friedman at Chicago went on to become leading economists, including Gary Becker, Robert Fogel, Thomas Sowell and Robert Lucas Jr.Friedman's challenges to what he later called "naive Keynesian theory" began with his interpretation of consumption, which tracks how consumers spend. He introduced a theory which would later become part of the mainstream and among the first to propagate the theory of consumption smoothing. During the 1960s he became the main advocate opposing Keynesian government policies, and described his approach (along with mainstream economics) as using "Keynesian language and apparatus" yet rejecting its initial conclusions. He theorized that there existed a natural rate of unemployment and argued that unemployment below this rate would cause inflation to accelerate. He argued that the Phillips curve was in the long run vertical at the "natural rate" and predicted what would come to be known as stagflation. Friedman promoted a macroeconomic viewpoint known as Monetarism and argued that a steady, small expansion of the money supply was the preferred policy, as compared to rapid, and unexpected changes. His ideas concerning monetary policy, taxation, privatization and deregulation influenced government policies, especially during the 1980s. His monetary theory influenced the Federal Reserve's monetary policy in response to the global financial crisis of 2007–2008.After retiring from the University of Chicago in 1977, and becoming Emeritus professor in economics in 1983, Friedman was an advisor to Republican President Ronald Reagan and Conservative British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. His political philosophy extolled the virtues of a free market economic system with minimal government intervention in social matters. He once stated that his role in eliminating conscription in the United States was his proudest achievement. In his 1962 book Capitalism and Freedom, Friedman advocated policies such as a volunteer military, freely floating exchange rates, abolition of medical licenses, a negative income tax and school vouchers and opposition to the war on drugs and support for drug liberalization policies. His support for school choice led him to found the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, later renamed EdChoice.Friedman's works cover a broad range of economic topics and public policy issues. His books and essays have had global influence, including in former communist states. A 2011 survey of economists commissioned by the EJW ranked Friedman as the second-most popular economist of the 20th century, following only John Maynard Keynes. Upon his death, The Economist described him as "the most influential economist of the second half of the 20th century ... possibly of all of it".

Photo of Philip Kotler

2. Philip Kotler (1931 - )

With an HPI of 76.93, Philip Kotler is the 2nd most famous American Economist.  His biography has been translated into 40 different languages.

Philip Kotler (born May 27, 1931) is an American marketing author, consultant, and professor; the S. C. Johnson & Son Distinguished Professor of International Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University (1962-2018). He is known for popularizing the definition of marketing mix. He is the author of over 80 books, including Marketing Management, Principles of Marketing, Kotler on Marketing, Marketing Insights from A to Z, Marketing 4.0, Marketing Places, Marketing of Nations, Chaotics, Market Your Way to Growth, Winning Global Markets, Strategic Marketing for Health Care Organizations, Social Marketing, Social Media Marketing, My Adventures in Marketing, Up and Out of Poverty, and Winning at Innovation. Kotler describes strategic marketing as serving as "the link between society's needs and its pattern of industrial response."Kotler helped create the field of social marketing that focuses on helping individuals and groups modify their behaviors toward healthier and safer living styles. He also created the concept of "demarketing" to aid in the task of reducing the level of demand. He also developed the concepts of "prosumers," "atmospherics," and "societal marketing." He is regarded as,"The Father of Modern Marketing" by many scholars. Kotler's latest work focuses on economic justice and the shortcomings of capitalism. He published Confronting Capitalism: Real Solutions for a Troubled Economic System in 2015, Democracy in Decline: Rebuilding its Future in 2016, "Advancing the Common Good" in 2019, and Brand Activism: From Purpose to Action in 2018.

Photo of Paul Samuelson

3. Paul Samuelson (1915 - 2009)

With an HPI of 76.63, Paul Samuelson is the 3rd most famous American Economist.  His biography has been translated into 73 different languages.

Paul Anthony Samuelson (May 15, 1915 – December 13, 2009) was an American economist, who was the first American to win the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. When awarding the prize in 1970, the Swedish Royal Academies stated that he "has done more than any other contemporary economist to raise the level of scientific analysis in economic theory". Economic historian Randall E. Parker has called him the "Father of Modern Economics", and The New York Times considers him to be the "foremost academic economist of the 20th century".Samuelson was likely the most influential economist of the later half of the 20th century. In 1996, when he was awarded the National Medal of Science, considered to be America's top science-honor, President Bill Clinton commended Samuelson for his "fundamental contributions to economic science" for over 60 years. Samuelson considered mathematics to be the "natural language" for economists and contributed significantly to the mathematical foundations of economics with his book Foundations of Economic Analysis. He was author of the best-selling economics textbook of all time: Economics: An Introductory Analysis, first published in 1948. It was the second American textbook that attempted to explain the principles of Keynesian economics. It is now in its 19th edition, having sold nearly 4 million copies in 40 languages. James Poterba, former head of MIT's Department of Economics, noted that by his book, Samuelson "leaves an immense legacy, as a researcher and a teacher, as one of the giants on whose shoulders every contemporary economist stands".He entered the University of Chicago at age 16, during the depths of the Great Depression, and received his PhD in economics from Harvard. After graduating, he became an assistant professor of economics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) when he was 25 years of age and a full professor at age 32. In 1966, he was named Institute Professor, MIT's highest faculty honor. He spent his career at MIT, where he was instrumental in turning its Department of Economics into a world-renowned institution by attracting other noted economists to join the faculty, including later winners of the Nobel Prize Robert Solow, Franco Modigliani, Robert C. Merton, Joseph Stiglitz, and Paul Krugman. He served as an advisor to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, and was a consultant to the United States Treasury, the Bureau of the Budget and the President's Council of Economic Advisers. Samuelson wrote a weekly column for Newsweek magazine along with Chicago School economist Milton Friedman, where they represented opposing sides: Samuelson, as a self described "Cafeteria Keynesian", claimed taking the Keynesian perspective but only accepting what he felt was good in it. By contrast, Friedman represented the monetarist perspective. Together with Henry Wallich, their 1967 columns earned the magazine a Gerald Loeb Special Award in 1968.Samuelson worked in many theoretical fields, including: consumer theory; welfare economics; capital; finance, particularly the efficient-market hypothesis; public finance, particularly optimal allocation; international economics, particularly the Balassa–Samuelson effect and the Heckscher–Ohlin model; macroeconomics, particularly the overlapping generations model; and market economics.

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4. Herbert A. Simon (1916 - 2001)

With an HPI of 75.79, Herbert A. Simon is the 4th most famous American Economist.  His biography has been translated into 56 different languages.

Herbert Alexander Simon (June 15, 1916 – February 9, 2001) was an American political scientist, with a Ph.D. in political science, whose work also influenced the fields of computer science, economics, and cognitive psychology. His primary research interest was decision-making within organizations and he is best known for the theories of "bounded rationality" and "satisficing". He received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1978 and the Turing Award in computer science in 1975. His research was noted for its interdisciplinary nature and spanned across the fields of cognitive science, computer science, public administration, management, and political science. He was at Carnegie Mellon University for most of his career, from 1949 to 2001.Notably, Simon was among the pioneers of several modern-day scientific domains such as artificial intelligence, information processing, decision-making, problem-solving, organization theory, and complex systems. He was among the earliest to analyze the architecture of complexity and to propose a preferential attachment mechanism to explain power law distributions.

Photo of Joseph Stiglitz

5. Joseph Stiglitz (1943 - )

With an HPI of 75.35, Joseph Stiglitz is the 5th most famous American Economist.  His biography has been translated into 64 different languages.

Joseph Eugene Stiglitz (; born February 9, 1943) is an American economist and public policy analyst, who is university professor at Columbia University. He is a recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (2001) and the John Bates Clark Medal (1979). He is a former senior vice president and chief economist of the World Bank and is a former member and chairman of the (US president's) Council of Economic Advisers. He is known for his support of Georgist public finance theory and for his critical view of the management of globalization, of laissez-faire economists (whom he calls "free-market fundamentalists"), and of international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. In 2000, Stiglitz founded the Initiative for Policy Dialogue (IPD), a think tank on international development based at Columbia University. He has been a member of the Columbia faculty since 2001, and received that university's highest academic rank (university professor) in 2003. He was the founding chair of the university's Committee on Global Thought. He also chairs the University of Manchester's Brooks World Poverty Institute. He is a member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. In 2009, the President of the United Nations General Assembly Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, appointed Stiglitz as the chairman of the U.N. Commission on Reforms of the International Monetary and Financial System, where he oversaw suggested proposals and commissioned a report on reforming the international monetary and financial system. He served as chair of the international Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, appointed by President Sarkozy of France, which issued its report in 2010, Mismeasuring our Lives: Why GDP doesn't add up, and currently serves as co-chair of its successor, the High Level Expert Group on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress. From 2011 to 2014, Stiglitz was president of the International Economic Association (IEA). He presided over the organization of the IEA triennial world congress held near the Dead Sea in Jordan in June 2014.Stiglitz has received more than 40 honorary degrees, including from Cambridge and Harvard, and he has been decorated by several governments including Bolivia, South Korea, Colombia, Ecuador, and most recently France, where he was appointed a member of the Legion of Honor, order Officer. In 2011, Stiglitz was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Stiglitz's work focuses on income distribution from a Georgist perspective, asset risk management, corporate governance, and international trade. He is the author of several books, the latest being People, Power, and Profits (2019), The Euro: How a Common Currency Threatens the Future of Europe (2016), The Great Divide: Unequal Societies and What We Can Do About Them (2015), Rewriting the Rules of the American Economy: An Agenda for Growth and Shared Prosperity (2015), and Creating a Learning Society: A New Approach to Growth Development and Social Progress (2014). He is also one of the 25 leading figures on the Information and Democracy Commission launched by Reporters Without Borders. According to the Open Syllabus Project, Stiglitz is the fifth most frequently cited author on college syllabi for economics courses.

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6. Michael Porter (1947 - )

With an HPI of 74.33, Michael Porter is the 6th most famous American Economist.  His biography has been translated into 35 different languages.

Michael Eugene Porter (born May 23, 1947) is an American academic known for his theories on economics, business strategy, and social causes. He is the Bishop William Lawrence University Professor at Harvard Business School, and he was one of the founders of the consulting firm The Monitor Group (now part of Deloitte) and FSG, a social impact consultancy. He is credited for creating Porter's five forces analysis, which is instrumental in business strategy development today.

Photo of Elinor Ostrom

7. Elinor Ostrom (1933 - 2012)

With an HPI of 74.03, Elinor Ostrom is the 7th most famous American Economist.  Her biography has been translated into 73 different languages.

Elinor Claire "Lin" Ostrom (née Awan; August 7, 1933 – June 12, 2012) was an American political economist whose work was associated with the New Institutional Economics and the resurgence of political economy. In 2009, she was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for her "analysis of economic governance, especially the commons", which she shared with Oliver E. Williamson. She was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics.After graduating with a B.A. and Ph.D. in political science from UCLA, Ostrom lived in Bloomington, Indiana, and served on the faculty of Indiana University, with a late-career affiliation with Arizona State University. She was Distinguished Professor at Indiana University and the Arthur F. Bentley Professor of Political Science and co-director of the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University, as well as research professor and the founding director of the Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity at Arizona State University in Tempe. She was a lead researcher for the Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management Collaborative Research Support Program (SANREM CRSP), managed by Virginia Tech and funded by USAID. Beginning in 2008, she and her husband Vincent Ostrom advised the journal Transnational Corporations Review.Since the 60s, Ostrom was involved in resource management policy and created a research center, which attracted scientists from different disciplines from around the world. Working and teaching at her center was created on the principle of a workshop, rather than a university with lectures and a strict hierarchy. Ostrom studied the interaction of people and ecosystems for many years and showed that the use of exhaustible resources by groups of people (communities, cooperatives, trusts, trade unions) can be rational and prevent depletion of the resource without government intervention.

Photo of Oliver E. Williamson

8. Oliver E. Williamson (1932 - 2020)

With an HPI of 73.46, Oliver E. Williamson is the 8th most famous American Economist.  His biography has been translated into 52 different languages.

Oliver Eaton Williamson (September 27, 1932 – May 21, 2020) was an American economist, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and recipient of the 2009 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, which he shared with Elinor Ostrom.His contributions to transaction cost economics and the theory of the firm are influential in the social sciences.

Photo of Gary Becker

9. Gary Becker (1930 - 2014)

With an HPI of 73.14, Gary Becker is the 9th most famous American Economist.  His biography has been translated into 57 different languages.

Gary Stanley Becker (; December 2, 1930 – May 3, 2014) was an American economist who received the 1992 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. He was a professor of economics and sociology at the University of Chicago, and was a leader of the third generation of the Chicago school of economics.Becker was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1992 and received the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007. A 2011 survey of economics professors named Becker their favorite living economist over the age of 60, followed by Kenneth Arrow and Robert Solow. Economist Justin Wolfers called him "the most important social scientist in the past 50 years."Becker was one of the first economists to analyze topics that had been researched in sociology, including racial discrimination, crime, family organization, and rational addiction. He argued that many different types of human behavior can be seen as rational and utility-maximizing, including those that are often regarded as self-destructive or irrational. His approach also extended to altruistic aspects of human behavior, which he showed to sometimes have self-serving ends (when individuals' utility is properly defined and measured, that is). He was also among the foremost exponents of the study of human capital. According to Milton Friedman, he was "the greatest social scientist who has lived and worked" in the second part of the twentieth century.

Photo of Thorstein Veblen

10. Thorstein Veblen (1857 - 1929)

With an HPI of 72.85, Thorstein Veblen is the 10th most famous American Economist.  His biography has been translated into 42 different languages.

Thorstein Bunde Veblen (July 30, 1857 – August 3, 1929) was a Norwegian-American economist and sociologist who, during his lifetime, emerged as a well-known critic of capitalism. In his best-known book, The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899), Veblen coined the concepts of conspicuous consumption and conspicuous leisure. Historians of economics regard Veblen as the founding father of the institutional economics school. Contemporary economists still theorize Veblen's distinction between "institutions" and "technology", known as the Veblenian dichotomy. As a leading intellectual of the Progressive Era in the US, Veblen attacked production for profit. His emphasis on conspicuous consumption greatly influenced economists who engaged in non-Marxist critiques of fascism, capitalism, and of technological determinism.

Pantheon has 107 people classified as economists born between 1839 and 1967. Of these 107, 60 (56.07%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living economists include Philip Kotler, Joseph Stiglitz, and Michael Porter. The most famous deceased economists include Milton Friedman, Paul Samuelson, and Herbert A. Simon. As of October 2020, 9 new economists have been added to Pantheon including Michael Kremer, Anne Osborn Krueger, and Edith Abbott.

Living Economists

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Deceased Economists

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Newly Added Economists (2020)

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Which Economists were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Economists since 1700.