Anna Schwartz, Pioneering Research Economist, Dies At 96
Research economist Anna J. Schwartz died on Thursday at her home in Manhattan at the age of 96.
Schwartz is considered one of the greatest economists of the 20th century. She largely worked in tandem with Nobel laureate Milton Friedman, though she was often stuck in his shadow. She served the National Bureau of Economic Research in New York City for the entirety of her 70-year career.
Schwartz earned a Ph.D. at 48 and worked on policy appraisals into her 90s. Regarded as the “high priestess of monetarism, her collaboration with Friedman, “A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960,” published in 1963 is considered a classic, reports the New York Times. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke called it “the leading and most persuasive explanation of the worst economic disaster in American history.” The tome said that federal policy failures contributed to the Great Depression. Bernanke acknowledged this in 2002, saying, “I would like to say to Milton and Anna: Regarding the Great Depression, you’re right, we did it,” he said. “We’re very sorry, but thanks to you we won’t do it again.”
Though Friedman won the Nobel in 1976, Schwartz is considered to have been unjustly snubbed for the award. Friedman himself admitted this once, saying, “Anna did all of the work, and I got most of the recognition.”
Michael Bordo, a professor of economics at Rutgers University, said that Schwartz “had more information in her brain on the monetary institutions and monetary histories of the U.S. and the U.K than the rest of the economics profession put together. She could cite at will the details of long-forgotten debates, legislation, financial crises and scandals,” continuing, “she was also a strong believer in free markets and had little patience for those who doubted the power of the market.”
She was also a highly influential commentator on the U.S. financial collapse that began in 2008. Though she initially praised Bernanke for his early moves at stabilizing the economy, she criticized his reappointment in 2009 for his failure to warn investors that new financial instruments were difficult to price. Being one of the few economists with firsthand recollection of the Depression, her input on the financial collapse was highly respected.
Bordo, who met Schwartz for the first time in 1970, wrote that she “was a great economist but also a very warm, caring human being. She would always smile when I talked about my children and she would light up when speaking about the accomplishments of her four children and her grandchildren and great grandchildren. We will miss her,” in a Bloomberg piece eulogizing the late economist.