Thomas Sowell Biography


Birthday: June 30, 1930 (Cancer)

Born In: Gastonia, North Carolina

Thomas Sowell is an American economist, syndicated columnist, writer and social theorist who currently serves as a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He is often described as a black conservative for his old-fashioned assessments of economic theories, encouraging hard work and self-sufficiency. Prior to settling in his current position, he taught at several institutions, including Howard University, Rutgers, Cornell University, Brandeis University, Amherst College, and University of California, Los Angeles. He also did military service for two years during the Korean War and was an employee of the U.S. Department of Labor. As a columnist, he has penned articles for many prestigious newspapers, magazines, and online publications. He has authored over 30 books so far in his writing career, including 'Race and Economics', 'A Conflict of Visions', 'The Vision of the Anointed', 'Black Rednecks and White Liberals', and 'Intellectuals and Race'. Despite being criticized for his controversial ideas, he is considered one of the greatest African-American thinkers of his generation.
Quick Facts

Age: 94 Years, 94 Year Old Males


Spouse/Ex-: Mary Ash (m. 1981), Alma Jean Parr (m. 1964–1975)

children: John, Lorraine

African Americans Economists

U.S. State: North Carolina

More Facts

education: Stuyvesant High School, Howard University, University of Chicago, Columbia University, Harvard University

awards: National Humanities Medal

  • 1

    What are some key ideas in Thomas Sowell's economic philosophy?

    Thomas Sowell is known for his advocacy of free market economics, emphasizing the importance of individual choice and limited government intervention in the economy. He also emphasizes the role of incentives, competition, and prices in driving economic decision-making.

  • 2

    What are some common criticisms of Thomas Sowell's viewpoints?

    Critics of Thomas Sowell often argue that his free market approach may not adequately address issues of income inequality or systemic barriers faced by marginalized groups. Some also question the practicality of fully implementing his libertarian economic policies.

  • 3

    How has Thomas Sowell influenced political and economic discourse?

    Thomas Sowell's works have had a significant impact on conservative and libertarian thought, with his writings on economics, race, and culture shaping debates on public policy and social issues. His critiques of government intervention and advocacy for individual responsibility have influenced many policymakers and intellectuals.

  • 4

    What are some of Thomas Sowell's most notable books?

    Some of Thomas Sowell's most well-known books include "Basic Economics," "Black Rednecks and White Liberals," "The Vision of the Anointed," and "Intellectuals and Society." These works cover a range of topics including economics, race relations, and the role of intellectuals in shaping public policy.

  • 5

    How does Thomas Sowell approach the topic of race in his writings?

    Thomas Sowell often challenges prevailing narratives on race, arguing that factors such as culture and individual choices play a significant role in shaping outcomes. He emphasizes the importance of personal responsibility and criticizes policies that he believes perpetuate racial divisions and disparities.

Childhood & Early Life
Thomas Sowell was born on June 30, 1930 in Gastonia, North Carolina. With his father already dead shortly before his birth, his mother, a housemaid, could not support her five children, and sent him to a great-aunt and her two grown-up daughters who adopted and raised him.
During the Great Migration of African-Americans, a nine-year-old Sowell relocated with his family from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Harlem, New York City. There, he made it into the prestigious Stuyvesant High School, and subsequently became the first in his family to study beyond the sixth grade.
His academic career was disrupted at the age of 17 due to financial difficulties, following which did a number of jobs, including a job as a delivery man for Western Union. In 1951, during the Korean War, he was drafted into the military, but thanks to his photography skills, was trained as a Marine Corps photographer instead of being sent to Korea.
After two years of military service, he got a civil service job in Washington, DC and at the same time took night classes at Howard University, a historically black college. He earned high scores on the College Board exams and gained admission into Harvard University with recommendation from two professors.
After graduating magna cum laude in 1958, he completed his Master's degree from Columbia University the next year.
In 1968, he earned his Doctor of Philosophy degree in economics from University of Chicago, under George Stigler, for his dissertation 'Say's Law and the General Glut Controversy'.
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Professional Career
A Marxist during his 20s, Thomas Sowell's first professional publication was 'Karl Marx and the Freedom of the Individual' (1963), in which he provided a sympathetic examination of Marxist thought vs. Marxist–Leninist practice. However, he later rejected Marxist economics in favor of free-market theory after working as a federal government intern during the summer of 1960.
After serving as an economist for the U.S. Department of Labor in 1960-61, he became an instructor at Douglass College, Rutgers University in 1962 and then taught economics at Howard University in 1963-64. He subsequently became an economic analyst with AT&T in 1964.
He was an assistant professor of economics at Cornell University from 1965 to 1969 and had experienced the violent takeover of Willard Straight Hall by black students. Thirty years later, he wrote in the article, 'The Day Cornell Died', that those students were "hoodlums" with "serious academic problems", adding that he never experienced "the pervasive racism that black students supposedly encountered".
Following a brief stint at Brandeis in 1969-70, he joined the University of California, Los Angeles as an associate professor of economics, and was promoted to full professor in 1974. Between 1972 and 1974, he also served as project director of the Urban Institute.
During his time at UCLA, he served as a fellow at Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in 1976-77 and at Hoover Institution, Stanford University in 1977. He became a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution in 1980 and holds a fellowship named after his mentors Milton and Rose Friedman.
Writing Career
A syndicated columnist and an academic economist, Thomas Sowell wrote columns for 'Forbes' magazine, 'National Review', 'The Wall Street Journal', 'The Washington Times', 'The New York Post', and other major newspapers. He also wrote for online publications such as 'RealClearPolitics', 'Townhall', 'WorldNetDaily', and the 'Jewish World Review'.
Starting with the book 'Economics: Analysis and Issues' in 1971, he has published almost one book every year so far. His 1972 book, 'Say's Law: An Historical Analysis', provides a comprehensive coverage of the idea that "supply creates its own demand".
His 1975 book 'Race and Economics' analyzes the relationship between race and wealth in the US, focusing especially on blacks. He wrote a number of books during the early 1980s, starting with 'Knowledge and Decisions' in which he explicates how social and economic knowledge is transmitted and how that affects decisions.
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In 1987, he published 'A Conflict of Visions', the first of his trilogy on ideologies and political positions, in which he attempts to explain why political groups often clash on widely different ideas. It was followed by 'The Vision of the Anointed' (1995), which compares the conservative/libertarian and liberal/progressive worldviews, and 'The Quest for Cosmic Justice' (2002), which shows how confused conceptions of justice end up promoting injustice.
He wrote several books claiming that black progress is not a result of progressive government programs or policies, and that several so-called issues that black people face are actually not unique. Some of these books include 'The Economics and Politics of Race' (1983), 'Ethnic America' (1981), 'Affirmative Action Around the World' (2004), and 'Black Rednecks and White Liberals' (2005).
He opines that many children diagnosed with autism are actually affected by asynchronous development in which fast brain development disrupts other functions, which he named Einstein syndrome in his 2002 book on the topic. According to his 2013 book 'Intellectuals and Race', the roughly 15-point gap in contemporary black–white IQ scores is no different from the gap noticed earlier between the national average and ethnic white people.
Major Works
Thomas Sowell's thirty-plus books so far, have been praised for their originality, great depth and breadth, clarity of expression, and thoroughness of research. His books cover ideas ranging from Marxian economics to race, education, decision-making, as well as developmental disorders.
Awards & Achievements
Thomas Sowell was honored with the 'Francis Boyer Award' in 1990.
He won the 'Sydney Hook Award' in 1998.
He received the 'National Humanities Medal' in 2002 and the 'Bradley Prize' in 2003.
His book, 'Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One', won the 'Laissez Faire Books' Lysander Spooner Award' in 2004.
Personal Life & Legacy
Thomas Sowell's first wife was Alma Jean Parr, to whom he was married from 1964 to 1975.
In 1981, he married Mary Ash, with whom he has two children named John and Lorraine.
Facts About Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is known for his love of photography and has captured striking images of landscapes and wildlife in his spare time.

Despite being a renowned economist and author, Sowell is also a talented amateur musician and enjoys playing the piano as a hobby.

In addition to his intellectual pursuits, Sowell is an avid sports fan and has a particular passion for baseball, often analyzing player statistics and historical trends.

Sowell is a strong advocate for education and has been involved in various initiatives to promote literacy and educational opportunities for disadvantaged youth.

See the events in life of Thomas Sowell in Chronological Order

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