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Robert Solow
Neo-Keynesian economics
Solow natmedal.jpg
Bill Clinton awarding Solow the National Medal of Science (1999)
Birth August 23, 1924 (1924-08-23) (age 85)
Nationality  United States
Institution MIT
Field Macroeconomics
Alma mater Harvard University
Influences Wassily Leontief
William Phillips
Alvin Hansen
Paul Samuelson
Influenced George Akerlof
Robert J. Gordon
Joseph Stiglitz
Contributions Exogenous growth model
Awards John Bates Clark Medal (1961)
Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (1987)
National Medal of Science (1999)
Information at IDEAS/RePEc

Robert Merton Solow (born August 23, 1924) is an American economist particularly known for his work on the theory of economic growth that culminated in the exogenous growth model named after him. He was awarded the John Bates Clark Medal (in 1961) and the 1987 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.



Robert Solow was born in Brooklyn, New York in a Jewish family on August 23, 1924, the oldest of three children.He was well educated in the neighborhood public schools of New York City and excelled academically early in life.[1] In September 1940, Solow went to Harvard College with a scholarship. At Harvard, his first studies were in sociology and anthropology as well as elementary economics.

By the end of 1942, Solow left the university and joined the U.S. Army. He served briefly in North Africa and Sicily, and later served in Italy during World War II until he was discharged in August 1945.[1]

He returned to Harvard in 1945, and studied under Wassily Leontief. As his research assistant he produced the first set of capital-coefficients for the input-output model. Then he became interested in statistics and probability models. From 1949–50, he spent a fellowship year at Columbia University to study statistics more intensively. During that year he was also working on his Ph.D. thesis, an exploratory attempt to model changes in the size distribution of wage income using interacting Markov processes for employment-unemployment and wage rates.[1]

In 1949, just before going off to Columbia he was offered and accepted an Assistant Professorship in the Economics Department at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At M.I.T. he taught courses in statistics and econometrics. Solow’s interest gradually changed to Macroeconomics. For almost 40 years, Solow and Paul Samuelson worked together on many landmark theories: von Neumann growth theory (1953), Theory of capital (1956), linear programming (1958) and the Phillips Curve (1960).

Solow also held several government positions, including senior economist for the Council of Economic Advisers (1961–62) and member of the President’s Commission on Income Maintenance (1968–70). His studies focused mainly in the fields of employment and growth policies, and the theory of capital.

In 1961 he won the American Economic Association's John Bates Clark Award, given to the best economist under age forty. In 1979 he was president of that association.

In 1987, Robert Solow won the Nobel Prize for his analysis of economic growth.[1]

In 1999, he received National Medal of Science.

He is a trustee of the Economists for Peace and Security.

Economic contributions

Solow's model of economic growth, often known as the Solow-Swan neo-classical growth model as the model was independently discovered by Trevor W. Swan and published in "The Economic Record" in 1956, allows the determinants of economic growth to be separated out into increases in inputs (labour and capital) and technical progress. Using his model, Solow calculated that about four-fifths of the growth in US output per worker was attributable to technical progress.

Solow also was the first to develop a growth model with different vintages of capital.[2] The idea behind Solow's vintage capital growth model is that new capital is more valuable than old (vintage) capital because capital is produced based on known technology and because technology is improving.[2] Both Paul Romer and Robert Lucas, Jr. subsequently developed alternatives to Solow's neo-classical growth model.[2]

Since Solow's initial work in the 1950s, many more sophisticated models of economic growth have been proposed, leading to varying conclusions about the causes of economic growth. In the 1980s efforts have focused on the role of technological progress in the economy, leading to the development of endogenous growth theory (or new growth theory). Today, economists use Solow's sources-of-growth accounting to estimate the separate effects on economic growth of technological change, capital, and labor.[2]

Solow currently is an emeritus Institute Professor in the MIT economics department, and previously taught at Columbia University.


  • "Everything reminds Milton Friedman of the money supply. Everything reminds me of sex, but I try to keep it out of my papers."
  • "You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics."
  • "Over the long term, places with strong, distinctive identities are more likely to prosper than places without them. Every place must identify its strongest most distinctive features and develop them or run the risk of being all things to all persons and nothing special to any...Livability is not a middle-class luxury. It is an economic imperative."
  • "If it is very easy to substitute other factors for natural resources, then there is, in principle, no problem. The world can, in effect, get along without natural resources."
  • "There is no evidence that God ever intended the United States of America to have a higher per capita income than the rest of the world for eternity."[3]


  • "A Contribution to the Theory of Economic Growth". Quarterly Journal of Economics 70 (1): 65–94. 1956. doi:10.2307/1884513. 
  • "Technical Change and the Aggregate Production Function". Review of Economics and Statistics 39 (3): 312–320. 1957. doi:10.2307/1926047. 
  • Linear Programming and Economic Analysis. New York: McGraw-Hill. 1958. 
  • The New Industrial State or Son of Affluence. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill. 1967. 
  • "The Economics of Resources or the Resources of Economics". The American Economic Review 64 (2): 1–14. 1974. doi:10.2307/1816009. 
  • "The last 50 years in growth theory and the next 10". Oxford Review of Economic Policy 23 (1): 3–14. 2007. doi:10.1093/oxrep/grm004. 

See also


  1. ^ a b c d "Robert M. Solow – Autobiography". 1924-08-23. Retrieved 2010-03-16. 
  2. ^ a b c d Haines, Joel D.; Sharif, Nawaz M. (2006). "A framework for managing the sophistication of the components of technology for global competition". Competitiveness Review 16 (2): 106–121. doi:10.1108/10595420610760888. 
  3. ^ [1]

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