Martin Weitzman

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Martin Weitzman
Meyer Levinger

(1942-04-01)April 1, 1942
DiedAugust 27, 2019(2019-08-27) (aged 77)
Spouse(s)Jennifer Bäverstam Weitzman
InstitutionHarvard University
FieldEnvironmental economics
School or
Environmental economics
Alma materMassachusetts Institute of Technology
Stanford University
Swarthmore College
Robert Solow
Nat Keohane, Andrew Metrick, Gernot Wagner
AwardsTop 15 Financial Times-McKinsey Business Book of the Year 2015 for Climate Shock[1]
Information at IDEAS / RePEc

Martin Lawrence "Marty" Weitzman (April 1, 1942 – August 27, 2019) was an economist and a Professor of Economics at Harvard University. He was among the most influential economists in the world according to IDEAS/RePEc. His latest research was largely focused on environmental economics, specifically climate change and the economics of catastrophes.


A New York Times obituary details how Weitzman "was born Meyer Levinger on April 1, 1942, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan to Joseph and Helen (Tobias) Levenger. His mother died before he was 1; his father, after returning from military service in World War II, was apparently unable to care for the child, and he was placed in an orphanage. His adoptive parents, Samuel and Fannie (Katzelnick) Weitzman, who were elementary-school teachers, gave him the name Martin Lawrence Weitzman."[2]

Weitzman received a B.A. in Mathematics and Physics from Swarthmore College in 1963. He went on to receive an M.S. in Statistics and Operations Research from Stanford University in 1964, and then attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he received a Ph.D. in Economics in 1967. Weitzman first joined the Yale University faculty, in 1967, moved to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, before joining the economics department at Harvard University in 1989, where he taught until his death in 2019.[2] Weitzman died by suicide on August 27, 2019 at the age of 77."[2][3][4][5]


Weitzman's research covered a wide range of topics including Environmental and Natural Resource Economics, Green Accounting, Economics of Biodiversity, Economics of Environmental Regulation, Economics of Climate Change, Discounting, Comparative Economic Systems, Economics of Profit Sharing, Economic Planning, and Microfoundations of Macro Theory.

Much of Weitzman's research was focused on climate change. Traditional cost-benefit analysis of climate change looks at the costs of reducing global warming (the cost of reducing greenhouse gas emissions) versus the benefits (potentially stopping or slowing climate change). However, in most analyses, the damages that would stem from dramatic climate change are not taken into consideration. Weitzman added dramatic climate change to the cost-benefit analysis to show that immediate measures must be taken in regards to climate change regulation.[6]

Weitzman's past research was focused on fixed versus profit sharing wages and their effect on unemployment. He proposed that when firms use profit sharing wages, meaning employees receive higher wages when a company is doing well, firms have lower rates of unemployment and do better during recessions.

Another topic of research that Weitzman is well known for was his study of price versus quantity controls. Weitzman proposed a theory that when faced with uncertainty the relative slopes of the marginal benefits versus the marginal costs must be examined in order to determine which type of control will be most effective. For example, in the case of pollution, the relative slopes of marginal costs and marginal damages must be examined (the marginal benefits are the avoidance of the marginal damages). His research showed that if the slope of marginal costs is steeper, price controls are more effective and if the relative slope of marginal damages is steeper, then quantity controls are more effective.

Of note, Weitzman also derived the Gittins index – a celebrated result in the applied probability literature – independently from (and in parallel to) John C. Gittins.[7]


Weitzman wrote three books: The Share Economy: Conquering Stagflation,[8] Income, Wealth, and the Maximum Principle, and, most recently, Climate Shock,[1] jointly with Gernot Wagner.[9] In The Share Economy: Conquering Stagflation, Weitzman proposed that a main cause of stagflation is paying workers a fixed wage, regardless of how the company is performing. He introduced an alternate labor payment system as a way of combating stagflation. Income, Wealth, and the Maximum Principle is a book geared towards advanced economic students particularly those who want to be able to formulate and solve complex allocation problems and who are interested in the relationship between income accounting and wealth or welfare. Climate Shock details how what we know about global warming is bad and what we don't know is potentially much worse.[1][10][11][12]


Weitzman began his teaching career in 1967 as an assistant professor of economics at Yale University. Three years later Weitzman was promoted to be an associate professor, and he remained in this position until 1972; at this time he joined the faculty at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1972 still as an associate professor. In 1974, Weitzman became a professor at MIT, where he taught until 1989. From 1986 to 1989, Weitzman was recognized as a Mitsui professor at MIT. In 1989, Weitzman became an Ernest E. Monrad Professor of Economics at Harvard University and has remained in this position for the last 18 years. He taught two graduate courses: Ec 2680 Environmental and Natural Resource Economics & Ec 2690 Environmental Economics and Policy Seminar.

Other positions[edit]

Weitzman served as a consultant to The World Bank, Stanford Research Institute, International Monetary Fund, Agency for International Development, Arthur D. Little Co., Canadian Parliamentary Committee on Employment, Icelandic Committee on Natural Resources, National Academy Panel on Integrated Environmental and Economic Accounting.

He also served as associate editor of the following publications: Journal of Comparative Economics, Economics Letters, Journal of Japanese and International Economies, Journal of Environmental Economics and Management.

Awards and recognitions[edit]

  • National Science Foundation Fellow, 1963–65
  • Woodrow Wilson Fellow, 1963–64
  • Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellow, 1966
  • Guggenheim Fellow, 1970–71
  • Fellow of the Econometric Society, 1976–present
  • Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1986–present
  • Association of Environmental and Resource Economists: Special Award for “Publication of Enduring Quality.”
  • Keynote speaker, 2002 World Congress of Environmental Economists
  • Keynote speaker, 2006 World Congress of Animal Geneticists


Weitzman published over 90 papers, many of which appeared in economics journals. Some of his papers are listed below.

  • Martin Weitzman, December 2007. "On Modeling and Interpreting the Economics of Catastrophic Climate Change [1]"
  • Martin Weitzman, February 2007. "The Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change [2]"
  • Martin Weitzman, January 2007. "Prior-Sensitive Expectations and Asset-Return Puzzles [3]"


  1. ^ a b c Gernot Wagner & Martin L. Weitzman, "Climate Shock: The Economic Consequences of a Hotter Planet", Princeton University Press
  2. ^ a b c Roberts, Sam (2019-09-04). "Martin Weitzman, Virtuoso Climate Change Economist, Dies at 77". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-09-04.
  3. ^ "Marty Weitzman, In Memoriam". 2019-08-29. Retrieved 2019-08-29.
  4. ^ "The Man Who Got Economists to Take Climate Nightmares Seriously - BNN Bloomberg". BNN. 2019-08-29. Retrieved 2019-08-29.
  5. ^ Roberts, Sam (2019-09-04). "Martin Weitzman, Virtuoso Climate Change Economist, Dies at 77". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-09-20.
  6. ^ Martin Weitzman (2008-06-05). "On Modeling and Interpreting the Economics of Catastrophic Climate Change" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-10-13. Retrieved 2008-06-30.
  7. ^ M.L. Weitzman, Optimal Search for the Best Alternative, Econometrica, Vol 47, No. 3. (1979), pp. 641–654.
  8. ^ Weitzman, Martin L., "The Share Economy," Harvard University Press
  9. ^ Gernot Wagner official website, researcher and lecturer, Harvard University
  10. ^ Chait, Jonathan. "What If Climate Scientists Are Guessing Wrong?". Daily Intelligencer. Retrieved 2017-12-19.
  11. ^ Clark, Pilita (29 March 2015). "'Climate Shock: The Economic Consequences of a Hotter Planet', by Gernot Wagner and Martin Weitzman". Financial Times.
  12. ^ "The economic options for combatting climate change". PBS NewsHour. Retrieved 9 February 2018.

External links[edit]