Lawrence Klein, 93, Economic Theorist

By Rifkin, Glenn | International Herald Tribune, October 25, 2013 | Go to article overview

Lawrence Klein, 93, Economic Theorist


Rifkin, Glenn, International Herald Tribune


Professor Klein was awarded the 1980 Nobel in economic science for developing statistical models used to predict global economic trends.

Lawrence R. Klein, who predicted the United States' economic boom after World War II and who was awarded the 1980 Nobel in economic science for developing statistical models that are used to analyze and predict global economic trends, died on Sunday at his home in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania. He was 93.

His daughter Hannah Klein confirmed the death.

As World War II was ending, Professor Klein disputed the conventional wisdom that the postwar period would drive the American economy back into a depression. Using his econometric models based on mathematical equations, he predicted correctly that the pent-up demand for consumer goods after the war, coupled with the purchasing power of the returning soldiers, would result not in economic crisis but in a surge in spending and a flourishing economy.

Though he was an economic adviser to Jimmy Carter during his 1976 presidential campaign, Professor Klein chose to remain in academia - - he taught economics at the University of Pennsylvania for 33 years -- and rejected an offer to join the Carter administration.

"I am just an academic giving advice," he told People magazine in 1976. "If you are a technician and are asked for help, it is a social obligation of citizenship to give it."

Professor Klein's use of vast survey data to build statistical economic models has been adopted by economists around the world, the Nobel committee said in awarding him the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science.

Jere R. Behrman, a professor of economics and sociology at Penn, said Professor Klein's work was built on the idea that an economy is a set of complex organisms -- millions of people, households, corporations, government and other entities -- and that through simple models one can understand its essence.

The models, he said, allow economists "to make predictions about what is likely to happen in the economy if there is a significant change in international markets, such as an increase in the price of petroleum." An oil price rise might affect productivity and export prices in Germany, for example, and that in turn could affect unemployment in the Netherlands or Dutch exports to Britain.

"Before Klein," Professor Behrman added, "there had been very little work on these aggregate models."

Lawrence Robert Klein was born in Omaha, Nebraska, on Sept. 14, 1920. He attended public schools there and became fascinated with economics while growing up in the Depression. He also developed an obsession for baseball and became a batboy for a minor league team. …

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