Kenneth Arrow

Nobel Laureate Kenneth Arrow

Nobel Laureate Kenneth Arrow visited the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings in 2004. Photo: Peter Badge


Kenneth Arrow was born in New York in 1921. When Kenneth was in high school, he developed a profound interest in mathematics and logic. Then, he entered City College of New York and studied mathematics, logic and statistics. After graduation he enrolled at Columbia University to study mathematical statistics and finished with an MA in mathematics in 1941.

Although his academic career was interrupted by World War II, Arrow continued his education after the war and received his PhD in economics in 1951 from the same university. His dissertation was “Social Choice and Individual Values”. This dissertation made way for what would be later known as “Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem”. This theorem states that groups of individuals do not make rational decisions or choices among alternative options. Moreover, the theory argues that there can never be an optimal voting system.


Kenneth Arrow carries his Nobel Prize

Kenneth Arrow carries his Nobel Prize following ceremonies in Stockholm in 1972 / Associated Press

In 1972 he was awarded Nobel Prize for his work and contributions to the general equilibrium theory. General equilibrium was first introduced by the French economist Leon Walras in 1874, while its modern version was developed by Kenneth Arrow and Gerard Debreu in 1950s.

He also contributed a great deal to other fields too, such as information economics, welfare economics and health care systems.

 Arrow died on 21 February 2017 at the age of 95.



Featured Image Credit: ©Linda A. Cicero


Further Reading

– Kenneth J. Arrow

An impossible mind: the late Kenneth Arrow

– Nobel Prize-winner Kenneth J. Arrow dies

– Kenneth Arrow Made Great Models, and Was One

– Kenneth Arrow on healthcare economics: a 21st century appreciation

Moral Hazard: Kenneth J. Arrow vs. Frank Knight and the Austrians

When Economics Had Ethics