Lawrence Klein
Lawrence Klein

Dr. Lawrence R. Klein, the Benjamin Franklin Professor of Economics Emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 1980, passed away on October 20 at age 93.

Dr. Klein taught in the economics department of the University of Pennsylvania from 1958 until his retirement in 1991. He continued as an active researcher and valued colleague long after his formal retirement.

Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Dr. Klein held degrees from MIT (PhD), Oxford University (MA), and UC, Berkeley (BA).

In referencing his early years, he stated “Although I was not aware of it at the time, the experience of growing up during the Great Depression was to have a profound impact on my intellectual and professional career. Collegiate life subsequently gave me a basis for understanding this experience and to develop some analytical skills for dealing with the important economic aspects of this era, as well as the exciting times that were to come—World War II, postwar reconstruction and expansion.”

Prior to joining the Penn faculty as an associate professor in 1958, he was affiliated with the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan and the National Bureau of Economic Research. He held honorary degrees, including one from Penn in 2006 (Almanac February 28, 2006) and honorary professorships from more than 30 universities worldwide.

He served as president of the American Economics Association and the Econometrics Society, was founder of Wharton Econometric Forecasting Associates, of Project LINK and of the International Economic Review (Almanac October 28, 1980). He was a member of the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences and a corresponding member of the British Academy. In addition, he was a founding trustee of Economists for Peace and Security.

Dr. Klein was one of the pioneers in building macroeconometric models. One of his earliest successes was in forecasting business fluctuations and economic policy at the end of World War II. At the time many economists predicted that the end of the war would bring another depression, but Dr. Klein predicted an unsatisfied demand for consumer goods during the war, combined with the purchasing power of returning soldiers, would prevent a depression. His prediction proved to be right. His research produced a series of increasingly detailed and sophisticated models of economic activity that were used to forecast fluctuations including national product, exports, investments and consumption and to study the effect on them of changes in taxation, public expenditure, oil price, etc.

In 1959, Dr. Klein won the prestigious John Bates Clark Medal from the American Economic Association, which was awarded biennially to “that American economist under the age of forty who is adjudged to have made a significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge.”

Dr. Klein advised many US and foreign governments. In 1976 he was the coordinator of Jimmy Carter’s Economic Task Force in a successful bid for the Presidency of the United States.

In 1980, Dr. Klein won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences (Almanac October 21, 1980)  for the creation of econometric models and the application to the analysis of economic fluctuations and economic policies. His Nobel citation states that “few, if any, research workers in the empirical field of economic science have had so many successors and such a large impact as Lawrence Klein.” The Nobel Prize website contains a detailed biographical profile, www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/economic-sciences/laureates/1980/klein-bio.html

Here at Penn, Dr. Klein was an eminent teacher who not only led the intellectual activity of the Graduate Group in Economics for more than 20 years but also for many years actively taught undergraduates in the General Honors Program. While on the faculty, he mentored more graduate students and directed more doctoral theses per year than any other departmental member.

In 1993, Dr. Klein created the Penn Institute for Economic Research (PIER), to foster an environment for research and teaching that enhances the University’s role as one of the leading institutions in the world of the study of economics. He was extremely generous with his time, helping the institute to grow and become an important part of Penn Economics.

Dr. Klein is survived by his wife, Sonia; daughters, Hannah, Rebecca and Rachel; a son, Jonathan; seven grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

Contributions may be made to the economics department in honor of Dr. Klein at https://giving.apps.upenn.edu/giving/jsp/fast.do?program=SAS&fund=630008 

Related: Lawrence Klein Death Notice (Almanac October 22, 2013)