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Kenneth Joseph "Ken" Arrow (born August 23, 1921) is an American economist, joint winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics with John Hicks in 1972, and the youngest person ever to receive this award, at 51. He is considered one of the founders of modern (post World War II) neo-classical economics.

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.

Forty years ago, Professor Arrow published "Uncertainty and the welfare economics of medical care" in The American Economic Review (1). This paper became not only one of the most widely cited articles in the field of health economics. Indeed, it marked the creation of the discipline. The first reason for this article's continuing popularity is its intellectual elegance and insight. The second is that it touches on a core feature of public health policy debates: the extent to which market or non-market institutions play fundamental and socially desirable roles in the provision and distribution of health care services.

Arrow grew up in a Jewish family and graduated from Townsend Harris High School and then earned a Bachelor's degree from the City College of New York in 1940. At Columbia University, he received a Master's degree in 1941. 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. He is currently the Joan Kenney Professor of Economics and Professor of Operations Research, Emeritus at Stanford University. He was one of the recipients of the 2004 National Medal of Science, the nation's highest scientific honor, presented by President George W. Bush for his contributions to research on the problem of making decisions using imperfect information and his research on bearing risk. He is also a founding member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. Ken Arrow's impact on the economics profession has been tremendous. For more than fifty years he has been one of the most listened to of all practicing economists.

He is a trustee of the Economists for Peace and Security. He was a convening lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.


Uncertainty and the welfare economics of medical care. The American Economic Review 1963;53:941-73.


Kenneth Arrow and the Birth of Health Economics. Bull World Health Organ vol. 82 no. 2 Genebra Feb. 2004.

Kenneth Arrow and the Changing Economics of Healthcare (special issue). Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law 2001;26:823-1214.

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