James Tobin


DEFINITION of 'James Tobin'

An American economist who won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 1981 for his analysis of financial markets and specifically for his development of portfolio-selection theory, which describes how investors mitigate risk in their portfolios by selecting some combination of high and low-risk investments. Tobin was a Keynesian economist and his research interests included macroeconomics and monetary and fiscal policy.


Tobin earned his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard and taught economics at Yale from 1950 to 1988. Among his other accomplishments, he won the John Bates Clark medal and worked as an economic advisor to President Kennedy. Tobin was born in Illinois in 1918 and died in 2002.

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