Kenneth Joseph "Ken" Arrow (born August 23, 1921) is an American economist, writer, and political theorist. He is the joint winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics with John Hicks in 1972. To date, he is the youngest person to have received this award, at 51.
In economics, he is a figure in post-World War II neo-classical economic theory. Many of his former graduate students have gone on to win the Nobel Memorial Prize themselves. His most significant works are his contributions to social choice theory, notably "Arrow's impossibility theorem", and his work on general equilibrium analysis. He has also provided foundational work in many other areas of economics, including endogenous growth theory and the economics of information.
Arrow remains active on the international scene through a variety of initiatives including trustee of Economists for Peace and Security and a member of the Advisory Board of Incentives for Global Health, the not-for-profit behind the Health Impact Fund.
Arrow was born on August 23, 1921, in New York City. Arrow's mother, Lilian, was from Iaşi (Romania), and his father, Harry, was from Podu Iloaiei (Iaşi, Romania). The Arrow family has Romanian Jewish origins. His family was very supportive of his education. Growing up during the Great Depression, he embraced socialism in his youth. He would later move away from socialism, but his views retained a left sensibility.
He graduated from Townsend Harris High School and then earned a Bachelor's degree from the City College of New York in 1940 in mathematics, where he was a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon. He attended Columbia University, for his graduate studies. While there, he studied under Harold Hotelling, and was greatly influenced by him. He received a Master's degree in 1941. He served as a weather officer in the US Air Corps from 1942–1946.
From 1946 to 1949 he spent his time partly as a graduate student at Columbia and partly as a research associate at the Cowles Commission for Research in Economics at the University of Chicago. During that time he also held the rank of Assistant Professor in Economics at the University of Chicago. In 1951 he earned his Ph.D. from Columbia.
Arrow is brother to the economist Anita Summers, uncle to economist Larry Summers, and brother-in-law of the late economists Robert Summers and Paul Samuelson. In 1947, he married Selma Schweitzer; they have two children: David Michael and Andrew Seth, both actors. Andrew is married to actress Donna Lynne Champlin.
He is currently the Joan Kenney Professor of Economics and Professor of Operations Research, Emeritus at Stanford University. He is also a founding member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. He is also currently a member of the Science Board of Santa Fe Institute.
He is a trustee of Economists for Peace and Security. He was a convening lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He is also Editor of the Annual Review of Economics.
Five of his former students have gone on to become Nobel Prize winners. These include Eric Maskin, John Harsanyi, Michael Spence and Roger Myerson.
He served in the government on the staff of the Council of Economic Advisers in the 1960s with Robert Solow. As a Fulbright Distinguished Chair, in 1995 he taught Economics at the University of Siena.
A collection of Arrow's papers is housed at the Rubenstein Library at Duke University. He has an Erdős number of 3.