Wassily Leontief

Wassily Leontief

Russian-born American economist who has been called the father of input-output analysis in econometrics and who won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1973.
Leontief was a student at the University of Leningrad (1921-25) and the University of Berlin (1925-28) and came to the United States in 1931, teaching at Harvard University from 1931 to 1975. From 1948 to 1975 he was director of the Harvard Economic Research Project on the Structure of the American Economy. In 1975 he became professor of economics at New York University, a position that he retained after being appointed director of the school's Institute for Economic Analysis three years later.

The core of his complex input-output system is a gridlike table showing what individual industries buy from and sell to one another. With the addition of government, consumers, foreign countries, and other elements, there emerges a general outline of the goods and services circulating in a national economy. The input-output method of economic analysis is used in various forms in more than 50 industrialized countries for planning and forecasting.

Leontief is also distinguished for having developed linear programming, a mathematical technique for solving complex problems of economic operations. He also is known for the "Leontief Paradox," his finding that, in the United States, capital rather than labour is the relatively scarce factor of production.

Among his major publications are The Structure of the American Economy 1919-1929: An Empirical Application of Equilibrium Analysis (1941) and Input-Output Economics (1966).

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