The new face of the Fed

A scholar of unemployment lands a very important job.

Associated Press

Associated Press

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When newly minted Brown graduate Janet Yellen ’71PhD came to Yale in 1967 to study economics in graduate school, one of her teachers was James Tobin, the noted Keynesian economist who would later win a Nobel Prize. Yellen paid attention. Her contemporaries remember that Yellen’s notes in Tobin’s class were so clear and thorough that they were used by generations of his students as a study guide.

Yellen did her dissertation on unemployment—a subject that will surely be on her mind if she is confirmed by the Senate as expected and becomes chair of the Federal Reserve, the world’s most powerful central bank, on January 31. Some hope—and others fear—that she will try to tip the Fed’s balance of economic concerns away from preventing inflation and toward preventing unemployment.

Yellen has spent her life in both academia and government. She has been a professor at Harvard and UC–Berkeley, and she chaired the Council of Economic Advisers to President Bill Clinton ’73JD and ran the Fed branch in San Francisco before becoming vice chair of the Fed in 2010.

Along the way, she found time to serve as a fellow of the Yale Corporation, the university’s board of trustees, from 2000 to 2006. Her Yale ties also include her husband, Nobel Prize–winning economist George Akerlof ’62, and her son, Robert Akerlof ’03.

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