It is with great sadness that we announce Professor Sir Tony Atkinson, Centennial Professor at LSE, died on Sunday 1 January 2017.
“We are very sad to report that Tony Atkinson died on the first of January. He was 72. Tony Atkinson was one of the most distinguished economists of the 20th and 21st centuries. He profoundly influenced our thinking on poverty, inequality, mobility, public policy and the economics of growth. From his first book in 1969, Poverty in Britain and the Reform of Social Security (Cambridge University Press), to his last, Inequality: What Can Be Done? (Harvard University Press, 2015), he demonstrated the great care and rigour which should characterise serious economics. His approach was: identify the issues, examine the facts and the forces that shape them, and ask what we can or should do. And through his technical work on his index of inequality and on public policy in imperfect economies he showed how analytical rigour could change our understanding. Based on his work on inequality and market imperfections, his was one of the clearest voices challenging the “market fundamentalism” of the 1980s and 1990s.
“He was Tooke Professor at LSE from 1980-92 and Centennial Professor from 2010. He was Chair of the Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines (STICERD) from 1980 to 1988 and, with its founding chair (1978-80) Professor Michio Morishima, made it one of the world’s leading research centres.
“Tony was not only an extraordinary leader through his writing but also in his building and reinvigorating of institutions, from his time at Essex (where he went as a professor aged 27) to Nuffield College, Oxford where he was a much loved Warden, 1994-2005. He founded the Journal of Public Economics in 1971 and was editor for nearly two decades. With Mervyn King and Nick Stern he initiated at STICERD the ESRC programme on “Taxation, Incentives and the Distribution of Income” which lasted for 12 years coinciding with his time at the School. This was one of the ESRC’s first and longest lasting research programmes. There are many more examples of Tony building and nurturing institutions that were both of the highest quality and endured.
“His distinction was recognised across the world. For example, he was President of the Econometric Society, of the Royal Economic Society, of the European Economic Association, and of the International Economic Association. He was awarded 19 honorary doctorates.
“He was a great European; the majority of his honorary doctorates were from European non UK universities. He worked in a hospital in a deprived area of Hamburg before going to University. He was involved in the economic analysis of the potential effects of joining the European Economic Community in the early 1970s prior to the referendum on joining in 1975. He was President of the Luxembourg Income Study from 2011 which has made a great contribution to international comparisons of well-being and inequality. He was a member of France’s Counseil d’Analyse Economique, 1997-2001, and was Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur. Last year he was awarded the prestigious Dan David Prize for his work on poverty and inequality (shared with Francois Bourguignon and James Heckman).
“It was not just as an academic and leader of academic institutions that we remember Tony. He was the finest of human beings. His decency, humanity and integrity were profound and extraordinary. He was quiet and understated but deep and strong. He was charming and he could be very funny, including irony of the highest class. He was a special colleague, always ready with his support and wisdom.
“He met his wife Judith (neé Mandeville) at Cambridge as undergraduates when they were 19. They were married for more than 50 years. They shared and reinforced their commitment to making the world a better place and tackling injustice. They took great pride in and strength from their three children Richard, Sarah and Charles, their spouses and their eight grandchildren.
IG Patel Professor of Economics and Government
Chair of STICERD, 1988-1993
“Tony made fundamental and original theoretical contributions to economics in general, and to public economics and the analysis of economic inequality in particular. He also undertook original and innovative empirical analysis of economic inequalities, and of their relationship to economic institutions such as the welfare state. He made major contributions to applied statistics and the development of social indicators. His work brought the analysis of distributional issues back to a central position in economics. It is no overstatement to say that the modern analysis of economic inequality started with Tony’s 1970 paper in the Journal of Economic Theory.
“Aside from his academic contributions (which made him a leading contender for a Nobel prize), Tony made major contributions to social and public policy in the UK and internationally throughout his career, from his first book (Poverty in Britain and the Reform of Social Security, 1969), to his major report in October 2016 on Monitoring Global Poverty completed as chairman of the World Bank Commission on Global Poverty. In between, he made many other major contributions including to the measurement of government outputs and productivity, and to development of indicators on social inclusion and poverty for the EU. Tony was a pioneer (with Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez) of the study of ‘top incomes’ and inequality.
“Tony will also always be remembered for his outstanding personal qualities. He was sagacious in so many fields and yet so modest and kind, and the epitome of decency, humanity, and collegiality. Despite being very busy, Tony provided many of us friendly but incisive comments on our work, and was a continuing source of encouragement, support, and inspiration. He will be sorely missed.”
Professor Stephen Jenkins
Head of the Department of Social Policy
“He was a remarkable academic and a wonderful colleague who will be sorely missed.”
Professor Julia Black
You can explore STICERD’s wall of remembrance for Professor Sir Tony Atkinson here http://sticerd.lse.ac.uk/atkinson/
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