Learn more about Robert Barro
Robert Barro (born 1944) is an influential conservative macroeconomist and the Paul M. Warburg Professor of Economics at Harvard University. Dr. Barro first reached wide notice with a 1974 paper entitled "Are Government Bonds Net Wealth?", a paper which argued that, under certain assumptions, present borrowing would be matched by increased lending in order to pay future taxes expected to pay the debt on the government bonds. This paper was direct response to the Blinder-Solow results, which had implied that the long term implications of government borrowing would be compensated for by the wealth effect. This paper is among the most cited in macro-economics, and its implications of his Ricardan Equivalence Hypothesis are still being debated in the present.
In 1976, he authored a second influential paper, "Rational expectations and the role of monetary policy", in which he argued that information asymmetries would cause real effects as rational economic actors in response to uncertainty, but not in response to expected monetary policy changes. While he has revisited the topic since then, and critically appraised the paper, it was important in integrating the role of money into neo-classical economics, and in the synthesis of General Equilibrium and macroeconomic models.
In 1983 he applied this information asymmetry argument to the role of central banks, and concluded that central banks, in order to have credibility in inflation fighting, have to be locked into inflation targets that they cannot violate to reduce unemployment. (See also Monetarism, Phillips Effect, Inflation) This line of thinking has been influential in the creation of the Maastricht treaty for the European Central Bank.
During the 1970s economist Arthur Okun developed the concept of the Misery Index, which Jimmy Carter publicized during his 1976 presidential campaign, and Ronald Reagan in his 1980 presidential campaign. Numerous sources incorrectly credit Barro with this, due to the similarity of name with his own "Barro Misery Index". Barro's version first appeared in a 1999 BusinessWeek article.
His 1984 Macroeconomics textbook remains a standard for explaining the subject, and his 1995 book, with Columbia University economist Xavier Sala-i-Martin, on Economic Growth is a widely cited and read graduate-level textbook on the theory and evidence concerning long-run economic growth.
Another often-cited work a paper where he was a co-author with Gary Becker "A Reformulation of the Economic Theory of Fertility", published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, which is influential in thinking about "infinite time horizon" modelling.
In the last decade, Dr. Barro has begun investigating the influence of religion and popular culture on political economy, working with his wife Rachel McCleary.
Dr. Barro's work has been central to many of the economic and public policy debates of the last 30 years, including business cycle theory, growth theory, the neo-classical synthesis and public policy. He is widely considered to be a strong contender for the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for one or more aspects of his work.
- Are Government Bonds Net Wealth? (1974), Journal of Political Economy.
- Rational expectations and the role of monetary policy (1976). Monetary Economy 2:1-32.