Profile Major Works Resources

Wesley Clair Mitchell, 1874-1948.

Photo of W.C.Mitchell

American  Institutionalist at Columbia, leading researcher on business cycles and founder of the NBER.

Originating from rural Illinois, Wesley Clair Mitchell enrolled at University of Chicago in 1896, initially to study classics, but ended up diverted into economics.  At Chicago, Mitchell came under the influence of Thorstein Veblen and John Dewey,. but received his Ph.D in 1899 under J. Laurence Laughlin and Adolph C. Miller on monetary questions  

Mitchell stayed on at Chicago, a tireless contributor of book reviews to its house organ, the JPE In early 1903, Mitchell followed A.C. Miller's move to UC Berkeley.  Mitchell finally joined the faculty at Columbia University in 1908, where he would remain for the rest of his career.  Mitchell, perhaps more than anyone, would build Columbia into one of the most notable citadels of the American  Institutionalist School during the inter-war period.  

Mitchell was one of the founders of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) in 1920, and its first director of research.  After undertaking the NBER's founding study on income redistribution, Mitchell directed the NBER towards quantitative studies of the U.S. business cycles for which that organization has become renowned.   Mitchell would remain at the research helm of the NBER until xx

Mitchell's life-long interest in business cycles culminated in his authoritative NBER opus with Arthur F. Burns, Measuring Business Cycles (1946). His two other books on business cycles (1912, 1927) give a view of Mitchell at his best. His students, which include Simon Kuznets, carried on much of Mitchell's work into the post-war period.  

Although Mitchell followed the Institutionalists in eschewing agent-based theory, W.C. Mitchell's work was full of theoretical insights about society and the economy and he was a profound scholar of economic theory - as exemplified in his masterful lecture notes (1967). He also wrote many articles in Institutionalist theory.

Mitchell was also one of the first directors of the New School for Social Research (from 1919 to 1931).



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Major works of Wesley C. Mitchell

  • "Quantity Theory of the Value of Money", 1896, JPE
  • "The New Gold and the Fall of Prices", 1896, JPE
  • "Greenbacks and the Cost of the Civil War", 1897, JPE
  • "The Value of Greenbacks During the Civil War", 1898, JPE
  • "Tables Showing the Gold Value of Paper Currency, 1862-65", 1898, JPE
  • "Resumption of Specie-Payments in Austria-Hungary", 1898, JPE
  • "Suspension of Specie-Payments, December 1861", 1899, JPE
  • "Review of Karl Marx's Capital and Böhm-Bawerk's Close of the Marxian System", 1899, JPE
  • "Preparations for the Twelfth Census", 1900, JPE
  • "The Inheritance Tax Decision", 1900, JPE
  • "Review of  Böhm-Bawerk's Einige strittige Fragen der Capitalstheorie", 1900, JPE
  • "Review of Einaudi's Rendita Mineraria", 1900, JPE
  • "The Census of Cuba", 1900, JPE
  • "Review of Prager's Wahrungs und Bank-Reform ", 1900, JPE
  • "Review of Reed's Valics", 1900, JPE
  • "Review of Halle dissertations", 1900, JPE
  • "The Census of Porto Rico", 1901, JPE
  • "Review of Kostanecki's Der wirthschaftliche Werth", 1901, JPE
  • "Review of Beard's Industrial Revolution", 1901, JPE
  • "Review of Jannaccone's Costo di productione", 1901, JPE
  • "Review of Mayr's Grundriss", 1902, JPE
  • "Review of Bucher's Industrial Evolution", 1902, JPE
  • "The Circulating Medium during the Civil War", 1902, JPE
  • "Review of Sewall's Theory of Value Before Adams Smith", 1902, JPE
  • A History of Greenbacks, with special reference to the economic consequences of their issue, 1862-1865, 1903. [bk]
  • Gold Prices and Wages Under the Greenback Standard, 1908.[bk]
  • "The Backward Art of Spending Money", 1912, AER.
  • Business Cycles, 1913.
  • "Review of Aftalion's Les crises  périodiques de surproduction", 1914, AER
  • "Review of Davenport's Economics of Enterprise", 1914, AER
  • The Making and Uses of Index Numbers, 1915.
  • "Wieser's Theory of Social Economics", 1915, PSQ.
  • "The Role of Money in Economic Theory", 1916, AER.
  • "Review of Robertson's Study in Industrial Fluctuation", 1916, AER
  • "Bentham's Felicific Calculus", 1918, PSQ.
  • "Statistics and Government", 1919, JASA.
  • "Review of the Review of Economic Statistics", 1919, AER
  • "Prices and Reconstruction", 1920, AER
  • Income in the United States: Its Amount and Distribution, 1909-1919,  (with W.I. King, F.R. Macaulay and O.W. Knauth), 1922, Vol. 1: Summary [nber], Vol. II - Detailed Report [nber]
  • "Making Goods and Making Money", 1923, Proceedings of AEA.
  • "The Prospects of Economics", 1924, in Tugwell, editor, Trend of Economics.
  • "Quantitative Analysis in Economic Theory", 1925, AER.
  • Business Cycles: The problem and its setting, 1927. [nber]
  • "Postulates and Preconceptions of Ricardian Economics", 1929, in Smith and Wright, editors, Essays in Philosophy.
  • "Sombart's Hochkapitalismus", 1929, QJE.
  • "A Review", 1929, in E.E. Hunt, editor, Recent Economic Changes in the United States, p.845 [nber]
  • "Institutes for Research in the Social Sciences", 1930, Proceedings of Association of American Universities.
  • "The Social Sciences and National Planning", 1935, Science.
  • "Commons on Institutional Economics", 1935, AER.
  • "Intelligence and the Guidance of Economic Evolution", 1936, Scientific Monthly.
  • "Thorstein Veblen", 1936, in What Veblen Taught.
  • "Production during the American Business Cycle of 1927-1933", with A.F. Burns, 1936, NBER Bulletin [nber]
  • The Backward Art of Spending Money: and other essays, 1937.
  • The National Bureau's First Quarter Century, 1945 [nber]
  • Measuring Business Cycles with A.F. Burns, 1946. [nber]
  • What Happens During Business Cycles, 1951. [nber]
  • Lecture Notes on Types of Economic Theory, 2 volumes, 1967.




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