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Summary Article: Stigler, George J(oseph) (1911–1991)
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

US economist. His analysis of wage rate differences in labour markets is the starting-point of all later work on ‘search models’ of unemployment, according to which unemployment is interpreted as a voluntary spell of searching for the best job at the best rate of pay. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1982 for his work on the theory of economic regulation.

In a series of papers in the 1970s, Stigler suggested the simple hypothesis that government agencies, supposedly established to regulate the price and investment policies of public utilities in the interest of consumers, are best understood as acting instead in the interests of producers, not out of malice but simply as a result of the logic of public regulation. Stigler and others have since gone on to explore the implications of this hypothesis for one US regulatory agency after another.

His doctoral dissertation was completed in 1938 and published in 1941 under the title Production and Distribution Theories. It was hailed immediately as a major landmark in the history of economic thought. Stigler was invited by US agricultural economist Theodore Schultz in 1936 to join him at Iowa State University. He taught there for two years before moving to the University of Minnesota. After war-time service with the Office of Price Administration in Washington, he returned to Minnesota. In 1946 he became a professor at Brown University, leaving in 1947 to become a professor at Columbia University. In 1959 he moved back to the University of Chicago, where he remained until his retirement in 1981.

Stigler was born in Renton, Washington. He received his bachelor's degree from the University of Washington in 1931, his master's degree from Northwestern University in 1932, and began to work in the following year on his doctoral dissertation under Frank Knight at the University of Chicago.

He served as president of the American Economic Association in 1964 and the History of Economics Society in 1977. He edited the prestigious Journals of Political Economy from 1973 until his death in 1991. He was president of the Mont Pèlerin Society 1977–78.

His works include The Theory of Price (1942), Five Lectures on Economic Problems (1948), Essays in the History of Economics (1965), The Organization of Industry (1968), The Citizen and the State: Essays on Regulation (1975), The Economist as Preacher (1982), and Memoirs of an Unregulated Economist (1988).

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