DEFINITION of Joseph Stiglitz

Joseph Stiglitz is an American neo-Keynesian economist and winner of the 2001 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for his research on information asymmetry. During the Clinton administration, Stiglitz was the chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, (CEA.) He is also a former senior vice president and chief economist of the World Bank, notably fired for offering a dissenting view about World Bank policy during the 1999 Seattle WTO riots.

As a younger man, Stiglitz was a recipient of the John Bates Clark Medal, an award given to economists under forty who have made substantial contributions to the field of the economic sciences in the United States. A notorious critic of the International Monetary Fund, (IMF), Stiglitz has the background to back up his views in his many positions in global economic circles, as well as the many articles and books he has written about his experiences with international economic issues.

BREAKING DOWN Joseph Stiglitz

Born in Indiana in 1943 to a schoolteacher mother and an insurance salesman, Joseph Stiglitz attended Amherst College in Massachusetts and graduated in 1964. As a senior, he spent a summer studying at MIT where he would later earn an assistant professorship to pursue his graduate work. In 1965, he became a research fellow and went to the University of Cambridge as a Fulbright scholar. From 1966-1970, he studied at Gonville and Caius College at Cambridge and thereafter held academic professorships at Yale, Stanford and Princeton before settling into Columbia University in the year 2000. Three years later, in 2003, Stiglitz was awarded the title of “university professor,” Columbia’s highest tenured position, and Stiglitz now teaches and lectures at Columbia but devotes much of his time towards international economics issues.


In 1979, Stiglitz was the winner of the John Bates Clark for economists under forty making significant contributions to the field based on a mathematical theorem on the science of risk assessment. It was this paper in particular which allowed Stiglitz to be awarded the Clark medal.

Later, Stiglitz would be awarded the Nobel Prize in the Economic Sciences for his work on screening that was a partial contribution to the theory of information asymmetry of a technique used by one economic agent to extract private information from another. For his work, he received a shared prize of the award in the year 2001 with at least two other economists.

'Joseph Stiglitz' and Georgism

Stiglitz’s list of honors, awards, and achievements is staggering, but as a neo-Keynesian economist, the arc of his writings and teachings talk about how government regulation of corporate objectives is essential to a truly free society. Much of Stiglitz’s work is based on a Georgian perspective, reflecting on the original creator of the school of economics known as Georgism, namely Henry George, a 19th-century economist. Adherents of Georgism believe that while a person should own all that they produce, land use and environmental use costs should be factored into determining the true value of the products minus the costs to the collective land and environment. In the late 20th century among anti-international economics circles, this idea came down to the notion of “true cost.”

In 2009, Stiglitz was appointed to the Pontifical Academy of the Social Sciences and in that same year was named the chairman of U.N. Commission on Reforms of the International Monetary and Financial System by the President of the United Nations. In 2011, Time magazine named Stiglitz as one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World,” and in that same year, he also became the president of the International Economic Association.

Stiglitz has written an innumerable number of academic papers as well as scholastic books and some for a popular audience as well. The latest of these is: “The Great Divide: Unequal Societies and What We Can Do About Them,” in 2015; and “The Euro: And its Threat to the Future of Europe," 2016.