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Eisner, Robert


Economist Robert Eisner was born January 17, 1922, in Brooklyn, New York. Eisner's mother was an English teacher, and his father was a math teacher and later a high school principal. Eisner studied history at City College of New York, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He graduated in 1940, and went on to earn a master's degree in sociology from Columbia University before enlisting in the Army in the fall of 1942. Stationed in France, Eisner attained the rank of Field Artillery Captain. Eisner attended the University of Paris from 1945 to 1946 before returning home to marry Edith Chelimer in 1946. Eisner had met his future wife while he was in the Army in North Carolina and she was a student at Duke University.

Before and after serving in the military Eisner worked as an economist and statistician for several federal agencies including the Office of Price Administration. Eisner completed his work for the government in 1947 and studied at George Washington University briefly in 1948. Eisner then became involved in union organizing for the Public Workers Union in North Carolina for a short time before using the GI Bill to pursue further graduate education. In 1951 Eisner was awarded a PhD in economics from Johns Hopkins University for his dissertation “Growth, Investment and Business Cycles: A Critique and Development of Some Recent Theories.”

Eisner's first teaching job was at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he stayed for two years before joining the Economics Department at Northwestern University in 1952 as Assistant Professor. In 1954 he became an Associate Professor, and in 1960 was named Professor. Eisner was the chairman of the Economics Department from 1964 to 1967 and again from 1974 to 1976. In 1974 Eisner was named the first William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Economics at Northwestern University, a title he retained following his emeritus appointment in 1994.

A well-liked, enthusiastic teacher, Eisner enjoyed teaching introductory-level economics courses as well as advanced courses, and served as adviser to many graduate students. Many of Eisner's students went on to successful careers in government and academia, and kept in close touch with him over the years. Eisner's appearances in the popular media often prompted former students and colleagues to reestablish contact with him.

Considered a staunch Keynesian, Eisner's areas of specialization included the macroeconomics of business cycles and business investment, depreciation, federal budget deficits, monetary and fiscal policy, as well as the economics of social security and tax policy.

Eisner obtained funding from the National Bureau of Economic Research, the National Science Foundation, and the Ford Foundation for many research projects. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship to teach in Paris and London (1959-1960), and was a visiting fellow at both the Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics at Yale University, and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University (1967-1968). In 1971, Eisner spent a semester as a visiting distinguished professor of economic policy at the State University of New York-Binghamton.

Eisner was an active member of many economics organizations. He served as president of the Midwest Economic Association from 1982 to 1983, and was elected president of the American Economic Association in 1987. He was a member of the Board of Directors of Social Science Research Council, a fellow of the Econometric Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and was the fifteenth recipient of the John R. Commons Award of Omicron Delta Epsilon, the international honor society in economics.

Throughout his career and retirement, Eisner was a prolific writer. The author of ten monographs, scores of journal articles, and more than a hundred newspaper and magazine pieces, Eisner was an active participant in economic discussions in both the scholarly and popular press. Strongly committed to making economic issues comprehensible and meaningful to a general audience, he wrote frequently for newspapers, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune and the L.A. Times, as well as many others. His letters to the editor were often published, and he made many appearances on local and national radio and television programs. His articles and appearances generated voluminous responses from readers and viewers.

Eisner served on the editorial or advisory boards of numerous journals, including the American Economic Review, the Journal of Economic Literature, the Journal of Economic Education, the Journal of Economic Perspectives, the Review of Economics and Statistics, the Review of Income and Wealth, and Feminist Economics.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Eisner often acted as a consultant in both the public and the private sector and contributed his expertise to several significant court cases involving state government and public utilities. He was also called upon to appear before various congressional committees. Between 1959 and 1995, Eisner appeared before Congress more than 70 times.

Politically active throughout his life, Eisner was an early critic of the Vietnam War, established relationships with many members of Congress, and often was involved in local and national elections. Eisner acted as an economic advisor for Senator George McGovern in 1972 and served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention that nominated McGovern. In December of 1992, Eisner was one of the participants in President Clinton's Little Rock Economic Conference, and attended the President's Midwest Region Economic Conference in 1995.

Eisner served as a trustee of Roycemore School in Evanston for 15 years.

Robert Eisner died November 25, 1998, survived by his wife and their two daughters, (an economist and writer, and a public defender.)

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Robert Eisner (1922-1998) Papers

Identifier: 11/3/10/11
Abstract Robert Eisner was an American economist. Eisner joined Northwestern's faculty in 1952 and retired from the university in 1994. Eisner’s areas of specialization included the macroeconomics of business cycles and business investment, depreciation, federal budget deficits, monetary and fiscal policy, as well as the economics of social security and tax policy. The Robert Eisner Papers fill 46 boxes, spanning the years 1942 to 1998, and document Eisner's professional life, with the bulk of the...
Dates: 1942-1998