Theodore Schultz Biography

(Agricultural economist)

Birthday: April 30, 1902 (Taurus)

Born In: Arlington, South Dakota, United States

Theodore William Schultz was an American economist whose works concerning the significance of human capital in economic development earned him the 1979 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. He shared the prize with another economist, Sir William Arthur Lewis. He was an empirical economist whose research was concerned with understanding global agricultural issues. He completed his graduation and doctorate from agricultural economics from the University of Wisconsin. As part of his academic career he taught at the Iowa State College and the University of Chicago. He also served as the chairman of the Department of Economics at the University of Chicago during 1946-1961. Though he began research as an agricultural economist, pioneering studies related to agricultural problems of the United States and developing countries, he was later noted for his studies in the field of human capital. He was the author of several publications that include ‘The Economic Value of Education’ (1963), ‘Economic Growth and Agriculture’ (1968) and ‘Investing in People: The Economics of Population Quality’ (1981).
Quick Facts

Also Known As: Theodore William Schultz, Ted Schultz

Died At Age: 95


Spouse/Ex-: Esther Florence Werth

Economists American Men

Died on: February 26, 1998

place of death: Evanston, Illinois, United States

Notable Alumni: South Dakota State University, University Of Wisconsin-Madison

U.S. State: South Dakota

Grouping of People: Nobel Memorial Prize In Economic Sciences

More Facts

education: South Dakota State University, University of Wisconsin-Madison

awards: Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (1979)

Childhood & Early Life
Theodore William Schultz was born into a family of agriculturists on 30 April 1902 at Arlington in South Dakota, USA.
While studying in the eighth grade, he had to discontinue his education due to the shortage of labor during World War I. Later, in 1921 he pursued a minor course in agriculture from South Dakota State College.
In 1924 he enrolled at the University of Wisconsin and graduated in 1928 with degrees in agriculture and economics. He completed his PhD in Agricultural Economics from the University of Wisconsin in 1930.
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He began his career at the Iowa State College in 1930 and worked there until 1943. It was during this time that the West witnessed its longest-lasting economic downturn and the period was termed as ‘Great Depression’.
Beginning his career during this phase aided in gaining knowledge and insight. In 1943, on account of the Oleo- Butter war, he left the state of Iowa in 1943 and shifted to Chicago.
Upon moving to Chicago he worked as Professor of Economics from 1943 to 1952. He turned to issues facing agriculture worldwide. In his book ‘Transforming Traditional Agriculture’ (1964), he mentioned the primitive farmers in poor countries apply innovation to maximize agricultural output. In his opinion rural poverty was existent as government policies were in favour of urban dwellers.
His studies of agricultural problems led to the identification of certain major themes like the treatment of agriculture as major entity of the entire economy, understanding prices and resource allocation, the opportunities for increasing rather than reducing agricultural returns, the significance of economic incentives in decision making and so on.
Between 1946 and 1961, Theodore Schultz served as the chairman of the Department of Economics at the university. While serving as the chairman at the economics department, he initiated research on rapid recovery of nations like Japan and Germany post the World War II, and assessed its progress with that of United Kingdom where food continued to be rationed long after the war ended.
This research led to the conclusion that well healthy and educated population helps economic growth as education makes people productive and healthcare helps sustain the education investment thereby being able to produce. This was regarded one of his primary contributions and later called as ‘Human Capital Theory’ in economics.
At the University of Chicago, he was elected the Charles L. Hutchinson Distinguished Service Professor from 1952 until his retirement in 1972. Even after his retirement he remained actively involved in the activities of the universities until his last years.
He had authored several books and papers during his career. A few include ‘Reflections on Poverty within Agriculture’ (1950), ‘Investment in Human Capital’ (1961), ‘The Economic Value of Education.’ (1963) and ‘Transforming Traditional Agriculture’ (1964).
Major Works
Theodore Schultz was an economist who focused on studies and works related to agriculture around the world. He was involved in the assessment of the importance of agriculture in the growth of economy and the findings influenced the industrialization policy design to a great extent in both developed and developing nations.
Awards & Achievements
In 1959, he received an honorary doctorate of science from South Dakota State University. Other than this he was honored with several other honorary degrees in his career.
In 1960, he was elected as the president of the American Economic Association.
In 1972, he received the Francis A. Walker Medal of the American Economic Association.
The Leonard Elmhirst Medal of the International Agricultural Economic Association was awarded to him in 1976.
He was jointly awarded the 1979 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with economist Arthur Lewis.
Personal Life & Legacy
Theodore Schultz married Esther Florence Wert in 1930. The couple had two daughters and a son.
He died on 26 February 1998 at Illinois, USA. He was 95 years at the time of his death.

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