Graciela Chichilnisky

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Graciela Chichilnisky
Born 1944
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Nationality Argentina / United States
Fields Environmental economics
Development economics
International economics
Welfare economics (Social choice)
Mathematical economics
Mathematics (Algebraic topology)
Alma mater University of California, Berkeley (PhD)
Known for Carbon credit emissions trading (Kyoto Protocol)
Topological theory of social choice
Transfer paradox in international development aid
Influences Kenneth J. Arrow
Gérard Debreu
Geoffrey M. Heal
Stephen Smale
Influenced Geoffrey M. Heal
Notable awards UNESCO Professorship

Graciela Chichilnisky (born 1944) is an Argentine American mathematical economist and an authority on climate change. She is a professor of economics at Columbia University.[1][2]

Background and education[edit]

Chichilnisky earned her second Ph.D. under the supervision of Gérard Debreu (pictured), who won the 1984 Nobel Prize for his contributions to mathematical economics.

Chichilnisky was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants. She had a child during high school. In July 1966 a military coup occurred; the Argentine military violently closed scientific faculties at the University of Buenos Aires on July 29 during La Noche de los Bastones Largos (The Night of the Long Batons). Without having any undergraduate degree, Chichilnisky matriculated in the doctoral program in mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,[3] where she was supported by a fellowship from the Ford Foundation.[1] She then moved to the University of California, Berkeley in 1968, where she completed her Ph.D. in mathematics in 1971, writing her thesis under the supervision of Jerrold E. Marsden. She then earned a second Ph.D. in economics in 1976 under the supervision of Gérard Debreu, a mathematical economist and Nobel laureate.


After postdoctoral studies at Harvard University, she accepted a position as an associate professor at Columbia in 1977, and received tenure there in 1979. While based at Columbia University, she was UNESCO Professor of Mathematics and Economics from 1995 to 2008. She held a chair in economics at the University of Essex from 1980 to 1981. She has also been a visiting professor at many other universities.[1][3]


Chichilnisky is the author of over a dozen books and over 250 research papers. She is best known for proposing and designing the carbon credit emissions trading market underlying the Kyoto Protocol, and was a lead author on the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that won the 2007 Nobel Prize, and reputedly even created the term "sustainable development".[4]

In the theory of international trade, she constructed an example of a "transfer paradox", where a transfer of goods from a donor to a recipient can render the recipient worse off and the donor better off, thus responding to a long-standing question in international economics. In developmental economics, she constructed examples where export-led growth strategies for developing countries could result in paradoxically poor results, because of increasing returns to scale in the technologies of the developed countries. In welfare economics and voting theory, particularly in the specialty of social choice theory, Chichilnisky introduced a continuous model of collective decisions to which she applied algebraic topology to achieve striking results; following her initiatives, continuous social choice has developed as an international subdiscipline.

During the 1980s and 1990s some of Chichilnisky's research was done in collaboration with mathematical economist Geoffrey M. Heal, who has been her colleague at Essex and Columbia. In his own right, Heal has contributed influential research on public economics (marginal cost pricing for production economies with increasing returns to scale), with natural resource economics (particularly on economic growth with exhaustible resources), and on petroleum. Heal has also collaborated with Partha Dasgupta and Donald J. Brown.


Graciela Chichilnisky is a professor of economics at Columbia University (pictured).

In 1994 Chichilnisky sued two other economics professors, accusing them of stealing her ideas.[5] In 1991 and 2000 Chichilnisky sued her employer Columbia University concerning allegations of gender discrimination, pay inequality, and attempts by the university to dissolve her endowed chair. The latter suit was settled in 2008 under undisclosed terms;[3][6][7] The New York Sun reported that Chichilnisky received $200,000, "a substantial amount of money," Chichilnisky said. "And that has to do with who is right and who is wrong." According to Columbia's spokesperson, "Chichilnisky signed a statement that her salary was not discriminatory".[8]


  1. ^ a b c Curriculum vitae from Columbia University, May 2010, retrieved 2011-01-17.
  2. ^ Faculty listing, Columbia Economics Department, retrieved 2011-01-18.
  3. ^ a b c Fogg, Piper (October 17, 2003), "A Lone Woman Takes on Columbia", Chronicle of Higher Education .
  4. ^
  5. ^ Warsh, David (May 5, 1996), "A bitter battle illuminates an esoteric world", Boston Globe . Reprinted by the Chicago Tribune, May 6, 2006.
  6. ^ Chichilnisky v. Columbia University, American Association of University Women, retrieved 2011-01-17.
  7. ^ Strauss, Valerie (December 3, 2007), "Taking on the Economics of Gender Inequity", Washington Post .
  8. ^ Goldberg, Ross (July 1, 2008), "Columbia, Prof. Reach Second Gender Dispute Settlement", New York Sun .

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