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James Mirrless
Birth 5 July 1936 (1936-07-05) (age 73)
Nationality Scottish
Institution Oxford University
University of Cambridge
Field Political economics
Alma mater University of Edinburgh
Trinity College, Cambridge
Influenced Iván Werning
Awards Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (1996)
Information at IDEAS/RePEc

Sir James Alexander Mirrlees, FBA (5 July 1936) is a Scottish economist and winner of the 1996 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. He was knighted in 1998.

Born in Minnigaff, Wigtownshire, Mirrlees was educated at the University of Edinburgh and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was a very active student debater. Between 1968 and 1976, James A. Mirrlees was a visiting professor at MIT three times.[1] He taught at both Oxford University (1969-1995) and University of Cambridge (1963- and 1995-). During his time at Oxford he published the economic models and equations for which he would eventually be awarded his Nobel Prize. They centred around situations in which economic information is asymmetrical or incomplete, determining the extent to which they should affect the optimal rate of saving in an economy. Among other results, they demonstrated the principles of "moral hazard" and "optimal income taxation" discussed in the books of William Vickrey. The methodology has since become the standard in the field.

Vickrey and Mirrlees shared the 1996 Nobel Prize for Economics "for their fundamental contributions to the economic theory of incentives under asymmetric information".

Mirrlees is emeritus Professor of Political Economy at the University of Cambridge, and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. He spends several months a year at the University of Melbourne, Australia. In 2006, he was appointed Master-Designate of the Morningside College of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, along with the biologist Samuel Sun Sai-ming.[2]

Mirrlees is a member of Scotland's Council of Economic Advisers.


  • "Payroll-tax financed social insurance with variable retirement" (with R. A. Diamond), Scandinavian Journal of Economics, 1986
  • "Taxing Uncertain Incomes", Oxford Economic Papers, 1990
  • "Project Appraisal and Planning Twenty Years On" (with I.M.D. Little), in Proceedings of the World Bank Annual Conference on Development Economics 1990 (eds. Stanley Fischer, Dennis de Tray and Shekhar Shah), 1991
  • "Optimal Taxation of Identical Consumers when markets are incomplete" (with R.A. Diamond), in Economic Analysis of Markets and Games (ed. Dasgupta, Gale, Hart and Maskin), 1992
  • "Optimal Taxation and Government Finance" in Modern Public Finance (eds. Quigley and Smolensky), 1994
  • "Welfare Economics and Economies of Scale", Japanese Economic Review, 1995
  • "Private Risk and Public Action: The Economies of the Welfare State", European Economic Review, 1995


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