James Tobin


James Tobin : biography

March 5, 1918 – March 11, 2002

Besides teaching and research, Tobin was also strongly involved in the public life, writing on current economic issues and serving as an economic expert and policy consultant. During 1961-62, he served as a member of John F. Kennedy’s Council of Economic Advisors, under the chairman Walter Heller, then acted as a consultant between 1962-68. Here, in close collaboration with Arthur Okun, Robert Solow and Kenneth Arrow, he helped design the Keynesian economic policy implemented by the Kennedy administration. Tobin also served for several terms as a member of the Board of Governors of Federal Reserve System Academic Consultants and as a consultant of the US Treasury Department.James Tobin’s

Tobin was awarded the John Bates Clark Medal in 1955 and, in 1981, the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics. He was a fellow of several professional associations, holding the position of president of the American Economic Association in 1971.

In 1972 Tobin, along with fellow Yale economics professor William Nordhaus, published Is Growth Obsolete?,Nordhaus, W. and J. Tobin, 1972. Is growth obsolete?. Columbia University Press, New York. an article that introduced the Measure of Economic Welfare as the first model for economic sustainability assessment, and economic sustainability measurement.

In 1988 Tobin formally retired from Yale, but continued to deliver some lectures as Professor Emeritus and continued to write. He died on March 11, 2002, in New Haven, Connecticut.

Tobin was a trustee of Economists for Peace and Security.: James Tobin among founding Nobel laureates

Personal life

James Tobin married Elizabeth Fay Ringo, a former M.I.T. student of Paul Samuelson, on September 14, 1946. They had four children: Margaret Ringo (born in 1948), Louis Michael (born in 1951), Hugh Ringo (born in 1953) and Roger Gill (born in 1956). In late June, 2009, the family announced via a private email that Tobin’s wife had died at the age of 90.


In August 2009 in a roundtable interview in Prospect magazine, Adair Turner supported the idea of new global taxes on financial transactions, warning that the “swollen” financial sector paying excessive salaries had grown too big for society. Lord Turner’s suggestion that a “Tobin tax” – named after James Tobin – should be considered for financial transactions made headlines around the world.

Tobin’s Tobit model of regression with censored endogenous variables (Tobin 1958a) is a standard econometric technique. His "q" theory of investment (Tobin 1969), the Baumol-Tobin model of the transactions demand for money (Tobin 1956), and his model of liquidity preference as behavior toward risk (the asset demand for money) (Tobin 1958b) are all staples of economics textbooks.


  • Tobin, James (1956). "The Interest-Elasticity of Transactions Demand for Cash," Review of Economics and Statistics, 38(3), pp
  • Tobin, James (1961). "Money, Capital, and Other Stores of Value," American Economic Review, 51(2), pp. -37. Reprinted in Tobin, 1987, Essays in Economics, v. 1, pp. – MIT Press.
  • Tobin, James (1970). "Money and Income: Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc?" Quarterly Journal of Economics, 84(2), pp.
  • Tobin, James and William C. Brainard (1977a). "Asset Markets and the Cost of Capital". In Richard Nelson and Bela Balassa, eds., Economic Progress: Private Values and Public Policy (Essays in Honor of William Fellner), Amsterdam: North-Holland, 235-62.
  • Tobin, James (1992). “money,” The New Palgrave Dictionary of Finance and Money, v. 2, pp. 770–79 & in The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics. 2008, 2nd Edition. and Reprinted in Tobin (1996), Essays in Economics, v. 4, pp. – MIT Press.
  • Tobin, James, Essays in Economics, MIT Press:v. 1 (1987), Macroeconomics. Scroll to chapter-preview v. 2 Consumption and Economics. v. 3 (1987). Theory and Policy (in 1989 paperback as Policies for Prosperity: Essays in a Keynesian Mode). and v. 4 (1996). National and International.
  • Tobin, James, with Stephen S. Golub (1998). Money, Credit, and Capital. Irwin/McGraw-Hill.