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William Vickrey

AKA William Spencer Vickrey

Born: 21-Jun-1914
Birthplace: Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Died: 11-Oct-1996
Location of death: Harrison, NY
Cause of death: Heart Attack

Gender: Male
Religion: Quaker
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Economist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Asymmetric information in economics

As a Quaker, William Vickrey was a conscientious objector during World War II. He had a strong concern for social problems, which was often reflected in his work. He did extensive research on public utilities, transportation, congestion pricing, and urban problems, and he offered redesigned tax systems for Puerto Rico and Japan. His 496-page PhD thesis, Agenda for Progressive Taxation, remains in print and is still regarded as a classic of economics, for showing that an “optimal income tax” would be based not on year-to-year earnings, but on a citizen's long-term economic situation. He also studied "asymmetric information", wherein buyer and seller have unequal information about a transaction, and he devised what is now called the "Vickrey auction," where bids are sealed and the highest bid wins, but the second highest bid is the price paid. Far from being a stuffy academic, he regularly roller-skated between buildings on the Columbia University campus where he worked, and he would occasionally feign falling asleep during colleagues' lectures, then interrupt to ask the most insightful and difficult questions.

In 1996, Vickrey and Scottish economist James A. Mirrlees were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in economics. Vickrey became only the third posthumous winner of the Nobel Prize (after Erik Axel Karlfeldt in 1931 and Dag Hammarskjold in 1961) when he died of a heart attack three days after his Nobel honor was announced, but before receiving his ceremony and check

Wife: Cecile Thompson (m. 1951)

    High School: Phillips Academy Andover (1931)
    University: BS Mathematics, Yale University (1935)
    University: MA Economics, Columbia University (1937)
    University: PhD Economics, Columbia University (1948)
    Scholar: National Resources Planning Board
    Teacher: Economics, Columbia University (1946-58)
    Professor: Economics, Columbia University (1958-71)
    Professor: Political Economics, Columbia University (1971-82)

    Nobel Prize for Economics 1996 (with James A. Mirrlees)
    American Economic Association President, 1992
    Econometric Society
    National Academy of Sciences
    US Treasury Department
    Naturalized US Citizen 1945

Author of books:
Agenda for Progressive Taxation (1947)
Microstatics (1964)
Metastatics and Macroeconomics. (1964)
Rationalizing Transnational Income Taxation: Checking Tax Imperialism (1990)

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