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).
Major works of Wesley C. Mitchell
Resources on W.C. Mitchell
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