Robert Merton Solow (born
August 23, 1924) is an American economist particularly known for his work on the
theory of economic growth.
was awarded the John Bates Clark
(in 1961) and the 1987 Nobel Memorial Prize
in Economic Sciences
Solow was born in Brooklyn, New York in
a Jewish family on August 23, 1924, the oldest of three children.He
was well educated in the neighborhood public schools of New York
City and excelled academically early in life. In September 1940,
Solow went to Harvard
College with a scholarship.
At Harvard, his first
studies were in sociology and anthropology as well as elementary
By the end of 1942, Solow left the university and joined the U.S.
Army. He served briefly in North Africa and Sicily, and later
served in Italy during World War II until he was discharged in
He returned to Harvard in 1945, and studied under Wassily Leontief
. As his research assistant
he produced the first set of capital-coefficients for the
input-output model. Then he became interested in statistics and
probability models. From 1949-50, he spent a fellowship year at
statistics more intensively. During that year he was also working
on his Ph.D. thesis, an exploratory attempt to model changes in the
size distribution of wage income using interacting Markov processes
and wage rates.
In 1949, just before going off to Columbia he was offered and
accepted an Assistant Professorship in the Economics Department at
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
. At M.I.T. he taught
courses in statistics and econometrics. Solow’s interest gradually
changed to Macroeconomics. For almost 40 years, Solow and Paul Samuelson
worked together on many
landmark theories: von Neumann
(1953), Theory of
(1958) and the Phillips
Solow also held several government positions, including senior
economist for the Council of Economic Advisers (1961–62) and member
of the President’s Commission on Income Maintenance (1968–70). His
studies focused mainly in the fields of employment and growth
policies, and the theory of capital.
In 1961 he won the American Economic Association's John Bates Clark
Award, given to the best economist under age forty. In 1979 he was
president of that association.
In 1987, Robert Solow won the Nobel
for his analysis of economic growth.
In 1999, he received National
Medal of Science
He is a trustee of the Economists for Peace and Security.
Solow's model of economic growth
often known as the Solow-Swan
neo-classical growth model
as the model was independently
discovered by Trevor W. Swan and published in "The Economic Record"
in 1956, allows the determinants of economic growth to be separated
out into increases in inputs (labour
) and technical progress. Using
his model, Solow calculated that about four-fifths of the growth in
US output per worker was attributable to technical progress.
Solow also was the first to develop a growth model with different
vintages of capital. The idea behind Solow's vintage capital growth
model is that new capital is more valuable than old (vintage)
capital because capital is produced based on known technology and
because technology is improving. Both Paul
and Robert Lucas, Jr.
subsequently developed alternatives to Solow's neo-classical growth
Since Solow's initial work in the 1950s, many more sophisticated
models of economic growth have been proposed, leading to varying
conclusions about the causes of economic growth. In the 1980s
efforts have focused on the role of technological progress in the
economy, leading to the development of endogenous growth theory
growth theory). Today, economists use Solow's sources-of-growth
accounting to estimate the separate effects on economic growth of
technological change, capital, and labor.
currently is an emeritus Institute
Professor in the MIT economics department, and previously taught at
- "Everything reminds Milton
Friedman of the money supply. Everything reminds me of sex, but
I try to keep it out of my papers."
- "You can see the computer age everywhere but in the
- "Over the long term, places with strong, distinctive identities
are more likely to prosper than places without them. Every place
must identify its strongest most distinctive features and develop
them or run the risk of being all things to all persons and nothing
special to any...Livability is not a middle-class luxury. It is an
- "If it is very easy to substitute other factors for natural
resources, then there is, in principle, no problem. The world can,
in effect, get along without natural resources."
- "There is no evidence that God ever intended the United States
of America to have a higher per capita income than the rest of the
world for eternity."