Anna Schwartz

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Anna Schwartz
Anna Schwartz by David Shankbone.jpg
Born 1915
Residence Flag of the United States.svg U.S.
Nationality Flag of the United States.svg American
Alma mater Barnard College
Columbia University
Known for Analysis of money
Analysis of banking
Scientific career
Fields Economics
Institutions National Bureau of Economic Research

Anna Jacobson Schwartz (1915 - ) is an economist at the National Bureau of Economic Research in New York City. She is a past president of the Western Economic Association[1]. She has changed the understanding of how the world works for economists as well as politicians, policy makers, and journalists. She has changed understanding in more than one field of economic analysis and has done so in the course of a long career of continuous activity.

Early career

She graduated from Barnard College in New York City at the age of 18, gained her Master’s in Economics from Columbia University when she was 19, and had started her career as a professional economist one year later (in 1964, she would earn a Ph.D. from Columbia University as well).

Her first published paper appeared only four years subsequently, in the 1940 issue of the Review of Economics and Statistics[2] – then as now a leading journal. Written by Arthur Gayer, Isaiah Finkelstein, and, as she then was still known professionally, Anna Jacobson, the paper was on "British Share Prices, 1811 - 1850". That paper was a precursor of several aspects of her subsequent work. It was on financial data, on data drawn from Britain, and was meticulous in the presentation, explanation, and interpretation of the data. An example is the discussion of the change in the behaviour of the share price index after 1824.

This change, they showed, told nothing about the British economy or capital markets generally, but resulted from the inclusion of mining stocks – then as now sometimes rather speculative investments. As they wrote, "This example … has been cited to illustrate the need for constant reference to the historical meaning of movements in the indices." The care to put data in its historical context has characterised all her work, and is one of the ways in which it is an example to every economist.

National Bureau of Economic Research

In 1941 she joined the staff of the National Bureau of Economic Research. She has worked in the New York City office of that organization from then right up to the present, and indeed continues to work there five full days a week. When she joined the National Bureau, it was engaged in the study of business cycles.

Growth and Fluctuations in the British Economy

In collaboration with Arthur Gayer and Walt Whitman Rostow, she produced the monumental "Growth and Fluctuations in the British Economy, 1790 – 1850: An Historical, Statistical, and Theoretical Study of Britain’s Economic Development". It appeared in two volumes in 1953, its publication having been delayed by the war for some ten years after it was completed. That book is still highly regarded among economic scholars of the period. It was reprinted in 1975. Arthur Gayer had died before the book’s first appearance, but the other two authors wrote a new introduction which reviewed literature on the subject published since the original publication date. They admitted that there had developed what they called an "amicable divergence of view" on the interpretation of some the facts set out in the book. In particular, Anna Schwartz indicated that she had in the light of recent theoretical and empirical research revised her view of the importance of monetary policy and her interpretation of interest rate movements.

A Monetary History of the United States

She is most famous for her collaboration with Milton Friedman on A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1963 which hypothesized that changes in monetary policy have large effects on the economy. In particular, they lay a large portion of the blame for the Great Depression at the door of the Federal Reserve.

Research with Milton Friedman

For years before her first book was reprinted, another economist had joined what might be called the Schwartz team of co-authors. Prompted by Arthur F. Burns, then at Columbia University and the National Bureau, subsequently Chairman of the US Federal Reserve System, she and the young economist Milton Friedman teamed up to examine the role of money in the business cycle. Their first publication was "A Monetary History of the United States, 1867 – 1960". That appeared in 1963, along with the equally famous article, "Money and Business Cycles", which as with her first paper was published in the Review of Economics and Statistics. They also wrote the books "Monetary Statistics of the United States" in 1970 and "Monetary Trends in the United States and the United Kingdom: Their Relation to Income, Prices, and Interest Rates, 1867 – 1975" in 1982.

Each of these volumes was an astonishing combination of analytical insight, imagination, and rigour, with a massive weight of scrupulously sifted evidence. The effect of the first volume alone was truly extraordinary. It appeared at a time when the influence of money on economic activity and prices was downplayed or denied by the majority of economists. That book changed the consensus. While there of course remain differences, of emphasis at least, among economists, few would now deny the importance of monetary control for the control of inflation.

Financial regulation

She has also changed minds over financial regulation. Economists, bankers, and policy makers have been and are concerned with the stability of the financial system. Anna Schwartz, in a series of studies in the 1970s, 1980s, and indeed up to the present day – in some remarks at a conference just over a year ago in Helsinki – has emphasized that price level stability is essential for financial system stability. The uncertainty engendered by the absence of the first makes the latter unattainable. But even if we have price level stability, from time to time individual financial institutions will fail. Drawing on evidence from over two centuries she has demonstrated that such failures do not have major consequences for the economy so long as their effects are prevented from spreading through the financial system. Individual institutions should be allowed to fail, not supported with taxpayer’s money. This argument, too, is widely (although not yet universally) accepted.

Other areas of work

There have been other areas of her work including

This work is of high quality and she has developed younger scholars by her willingness to work with them, though she held teaching positions for only a short part of her career. They learned the methods of her work as well as her approach, which is the scrupulous examination of the past, so as both to understand it better and to draw lessons for the present. In 2007 she concentrated her efforts on US official intervention in the foreign exchange market using Federal Reserve data from 1962

Work overseas

She has also done such work overseas. Some years ago the Department of Banking and Finance at City University, London, England, started a research project on the monetary history of the United Kingdom. For many years, she was an advisor to that project. She commented on papers, suggested lines of approach, came and spoke to students and at academic conferences where the work was discussed.

Books

  • Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1961 (with Milton Friedman) ISBN 0-691-00354-8
  • Monetary Statistics Of The United States: Estimates, Sources, Methods (with Milton Friedman) ISBN 0-87014-210-0
  • Growth and Fluctuations in the British Economy, 1790 – 1850: An Historical, Statistical, and Theoretical Study of Britain’s Economic Development (with Arthur Gayer and Walt Whitman Rostow) ISBN 1-49902-898-9

External links