||This article needs additional citations for verification. (February 2013)|
July 1, 1926|
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Died||June 11, 2013
Oak Lawn, Illinois, U.S.
|Alma mater||Stuyvesant High School
Johns Hopkins University
Robert William Fogel (July 1, 1926 – June 11, 2013) was an American economic historian and scientist, and winner (with Douglass North) of the 1993 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. As of his death, he was the Charles R. Walgreen Distinguished Service Professor of American Institutions and director of the Center for Population Economics (CPE) at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business. He is best known as a leading advocate of New economic history or cliometrics—the use of quantitative methods in history.
Life and career
Fogel was born in New York City, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants from Odessa (1922). He graduated from the Stuyvesant High School in 1944. He was educated at Cornell University, where he majored in history with an economics minor, and became president of the campus branch of American Youth for Democracy, a communist organization. After graduation in 1948, he became a professional organizer for the Communist Party. After working eight years as a professional organizer, he rejected communism as unscientific and attended Columbia University, where he studied under George Stigler and obtained an MA in economics in 1960. He received a PhD from Johns Hopkins University in 1963.
He began his research career as an assistant professor at the University of Rochester in 1960. In 1964 he moved to the University of Chicago as an associate professor. From 1968 to 1975 he was also a visiting professor at Rochester in autumn semesters. During this time he completed some of his most important works, including Time on the Cross (in collaboration with Stanley Engerman). He also mentored a large group of students and researchers in economic history, including his colleague Deirdre McCloskey at Chicago. In 1975 he left for Harvard University, and from 1978 on he worked as a research associate under the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1981 he returned to the University of Chicago, where he directed the newly created Center for Population Economics at the Booth School of Business.
Fogel researched and wrote on numerous fields in his career, including not only economic history but also demographics, physiology, sociology of the family, nutrition, China's economic development, philosophy of science, and other related fields. He integrated insights from such diverse fields in his attempts to explain important historical phenomena such as the dramatic fall in mortality rates from the 18th to the 20th century. His former colleague Deirdre McCloskey credits Fogel with "reuniting economics and history".
Fogel married Enid Cassandra Morgan, an African-American woman, in 1949 and had two children. The couple faced significant difficulties at the time due to anti-miscegenation laws and prevalent sentiments against interracial marriages.
Cliometrics and Railroads and American Economic Growth
Fogel's first major study involving cliometrics was Railroads and American Economic Growth: Essays in Econometric History (1964). This tract sought to quantify the railroads' contribution to U.S. economic growth in the 19th century. Its argument and method were each rebuttals to a long line of non-numeric historical arguments that had ascribed much to expansionary effect to railroads without rigorous reference to economic data. Fogel argued against these previous historical arguments to show that onset of the railroad was not indispensable to the American economy. Examining the transportation of agricultural goods, Fogel compared the 1890 economy to a hypothetical 1890 economy in which transportation infrastructure was limited to wagons, canals, and natural waterways. Fogel pointed out that the absence of railroads would have substantially increased transportation costs from farms to primary markets, particularly in the Midwest, and changed the geographic location of agricultural production. Despite this consideration, the overall increase in transportation costs, i.e., the "social savings" attributable to railroads, was small - about 2.7% of 1890 GNP. The potential for substitute technologies, such as a more extensive canal system or improved roads, would have further lowered the importance of railroads. The conclusion that railroads were not indispensable to economic development made a controversial name for cliometrics.
Slavery and Time on the Cross
Fogel's most famous and controversial work is Time on the Cross (1974), a two-volume quantitative study of American slavery, co-written with Stanley Engerman. In the book, Fogel and Engerman argued that the system of slavery was profitable for slave owners because they organized plantation production "rationally" to maximize their profits. Due to economies of scale, (the so-called "gang system" of labor on cotton plantations), they argued, Southern slave farms were more productive, per unit of labor, than northern farms. The implications of this, Engerman and Fogel contended, is that slavery in the American South was not quickly going away on its own (as it had in some historical instances such as ancient Rome) because, despite its exploitative nature, slavery was immensely profitable and productive for slave owners. This contradicted the argument of earlier Southern historians.
A portion of Time on the Cross focused on how slave owners treated their slaves. Engerman and Fogel argued that because slave owners approached slave production as a business enterprise, there were some limits on the amount of exploitation and oppression they inflicted on the slaves. According to Engerman and Fogel, slaves in the American South lived better than did many industrial workers in the North. Fogel based this analysis largely on plantation records and claimed that slaves worked less, were better fed and whipped only occasionally—although the authors were careful to state explicitly that slaves were still exploited in ways which were not captured by measures available from records. This portion of Time on the Cross created a firestorm of controversy, although it was not directly related to the central argument of the book—that Southern slave plantations were profitable for the slave owners and would not have disappeared in the absence of the Civil War. Some criticisms mistakenly considered Fogel an apologist for slavery. In fact, Fogel objected to slavery on moral grounds; he thought that on purely economic grounds, slavery was not unprofitable or inefficient as previous historians such as Ulrich B. Phillips had argued.
The Fourth Great Awakening
In 2000 Fogel published The Fourth Great Awakening and the Future of Egalitarianism in which he argued that America has been moving cyclically toward greater equality, largely because of the influence of religion, especially evangelicalism. Building on his work on the demise of slavery, he proposed that since evangelicalism was largely responsible for ending the institution he found to be economically profitable, that religion would continue to fuel America's moral development.
Fogel was the director of the Center for Population Economics (CPE) at the University of Chicago and the principal investigator of the NIH-funded Early Indicators of Later Work Levels, Disease and Death project, which draws on observations from military pension records of over 35,000 Union Army veterans.
Much of Fogel's late writing incorporated the concept of technophysio evolution, a process that he described as "the synergism between rapid technological change and the improvement in human physiology." By using height as a proxy for health and general well-being, Fogel observed dramatic improvements in health, body size, and mortality over the past 200 years. This phenomenon is examined more fully in The Escape from Hunger and Premature Death, 1700–2100: Europe, America, and the Third World and The Changing Body: Health, Nutrition, and Human Development in the Western World since 1700 (both published by Cambridge University Press).
The Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences
In 1993, Robert Fogel received, jointly with fellow economic historian Douglass C. North, the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences "for having renewed research in economic history by applying economic theory and quantitative methods in order to explain economic and institutional change". In his Nobel lecture, titled "Economic growth, population theory, and physiology: the bearing of long-term processes on the making of economic policy", he emphasises his work done on the question of nutrition and economic growth.
- The Union Pacific Railroad: A Case in Premature Enterprise, 1960.
- Railroads and American Economic Growth: Essays in Econometric History, 1964.
- Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery, 2 volumes, 1974. (co-written with Stanley Engerman)
- Without Consent or Contract: The Rise and Fall of American Slavery, 2 volumes, 1989.
- Economic Growth, Population Theory and Physiology: The Bearings of Long-Term Processes on the Making of Economic Policy, 1994.
- The Slavery Debates, 1952-1990: A Retrospective . Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2003. 106 pp. ISBN 0-8071-2881-3.
- The Fourth Great Awakening and the Future of Egalitarianism Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.
- The Escape from Hunger and Premature Death, 1700-2100: Europe, America, and the Third World. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004. 189pp. ISBN 0-521-80878-2.
- The Changing Body: Health, Nutrition, and Human Development in the Western World since 1700 (co-written with Roderick Floud, Bernard Harris, and Sok Chul Hong), Cambridge University Press, New York 2011 ISBN 978-0-521-87975-0
- Political Arithmetic: Simon Kuznets and the Empirical Tradition in Economics (co-written with Enid M. Fogel, Mark Guglielmo, and Nathaniel Grotte), University of Chicago Press, Chicago 2013 ISBN 978-0-226-25661-0
- "Robert W Fogel | The University of Chicago Booth School of Business". Chicagobooth.edu. 1985-07-09. Retrieved 2013-06-12.
- Center for Population Economics
- Gibson, Lydialyle (May/June 2007). "The human equation". The University of Chicago Magazine (University of Chicago) 99 (5). Retrieved 2007-10-31.
- "Robert Fogel, Won Nobel Prize in Economics, 1926-2013". University of Chicago. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
- Arnold, Laurence (1926-07-01). "Robert Fogel, Nobel Laureate for Economic History, Dies at 86". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2013-06-12.
- Cronin, Brenda (2012-04-17). "Robert Fogel, Nobel Laureate, Dies - Real Time Economics - WSJ". Blogs.wsj.com. Retrieved 2013-06-12.
- Fogel, R. W. (2004). "Technophysio evolution and the measurement of economic growth". Journal of Evolutionary Economics 14 (2): 217–221. doi:10.1007/s00191-004-0188-x.
- "Robert William Fogel - Prize Lecture: Economic Growth, Population Theory, and Physiology: The Bearing of Long-Term Processes on the Making of Economic Policy". Nobelprize.org. 1993-12-09. Retrieved 2013-06-12.
- Conrad, Alfred H.; Meyer, John R. (1958). "The Economics of Slavery in the Ante Bellum South". Journal of Political Economy 66 (2): 95–130. doi:10.1086/258020.
- David, Paul; et al. (1976). Reckoning with Slavery: A Critical Study in the Quantitative History of American Negro Slavery. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-502034-0.
- Goldin, Claudia;Rockoff, Hugh [edd.] (1992). Strategic Factors in the Nineteenth Century American Economic History: A Volume to Honor Robert W. Fogel. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-30112-5.
- Parish, Peter (1989). Slavery: History and Historians. New York: Harper. ISBN 0-06-437001-1.
- Whaples, Robert (1995). "Where Is There Consensus among American Economic Historians? The Results of a Survey on Forty Propositions". Journal of Economic History 55 (1): 139–154. doi:10.1017/S0022050700040602. JSTOR 2123771.
- Nobel prize autobiography
- Review of Fogel's "Escape from Hunger and Premature Death"
- Lance Davis review essay on Fogel's Railroads and American Economic Growth
- Thomas Weiss review essay on Fogel and Engerman's Time on the Cross
- Podcast Interview with co-author Stanley Engerman on Time on the Cross on EconTalk at Econlib
- RePEc (Research Papers in Economics) updated information about Robert W. Fogel
- Feature article in The University of Chicago magazine