George A. Akerlof, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, was named the 2001 co-winner of the Nobel Prize in economic sciences in 2001. It is the second consecutive year in which the Nobel has gone to a UC Berkeley economist.
George Akerlof, described by a colleague as ‘a citizen of the profession’, is the author of a landmark study on the role of asymmetric information in the market for ‘lemon’ used cars. His research broke with established economic theory in illustrating how markets malfunction when buyers and sellers – as seen in used car markets – operate under different information. The work has had far-reaching applications in such diverse areas as health insurance, financial markets and employment contracts.
Akerlof shares the prize with economists A. Michael Spence of Stanford University and Joseph E. Stiglitz of Columbia University for their contributions to the analyses of markets with asymmetric information.
Akerlof, 61, is UC Berkeley’s 18th Nobel Prize winner. He is the university’s fourth economics professor and the third in seven years at the university to be so honored. Economics professor Daniel McFadden shared the prize last year. The now-deceased John Harsanyi, a professor of economics and business administration, won the Nobel Prize in 1994; and Gerard Debreu, a professor emeritus of economics and mathematics, won the prize in 1983.
Since joining UC Berkeley’s economics department in the College of Letters & Science as an assistant professor in 1966, Akerlof has been recognized for his research that borrows from sociology, psychology, anthropology and other fields to determine economic influences and outcomes.
His areas of expertise include macroeconomics, poverty, family problems, crime, discrimination, monetary policy and German unification.