Colin Clark (economist)

Not to be confused with Colin W. Clark.
Colin Clark
Born (1905-11-02)2 November 1905
London, England
Died 4 September 1989(1989-09-04) (aged 83)
Brisbane, Australia
Nationality British & Australian
Fields Economics
Institutions Oxford University, Cambridge University, Monash University, University of Queensland
Alma mater Oxford University
Doctoral students Sir Richard Stone
V.K.R.V. Rao
Sir Alexander Cairncross
Hans Singer
Influenced Angus Maddison

Colin Grant Clark (2 November 1905 – 4 September 1989) was a British and Australian economist and statistician who worked in both the United Kingdom and Australia. He pioneered the use of the gross national product ("GNP") as the basis for studying national economies.

Early years

Colin Clark was born in London in 1905 and was educated at the Dragon School in Oxford. He then studied at Winchester College, then at Brasenose College, Oxford[1] where he graduated in Chemistry in 1928. After graduation he worked as a research assistant with William Beveridge at the London School of Economics (1928–29) and then with Sir Alexander Carr-Saunders and Allyn Young at the University of Liverpool (1929–30). During this time he ran unsuccessful campaigns to be elected to parliament for the British Labour Party in the seat of North Dorset (1929), and later for Liverpool Wavertree (1931) and South Norfolk (1935).

In 1930 he was appointed a research assistant to the Economic Advisory Council newly convened by Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald. He resigned shortly after his appointment, after being asked to write a background memorandum to make a case for protectionism. Despite this, he had sufficiently impressed one of the council members (John Maynard Keynes) to secure an appointment as a lecturer in statistics at Cambridge University.

Lecturer at Cambridge

He was a lecturer in Statistics in Cambridge from 1931 to 1938 where he completed three books: "The National Income 1924–31" (1932), "The Economic Position of Great Britain" (jointly with A.C Pigou) (1936) and "National Income and Outlay" (1937). His first book was sent to the publisher Daniel MacMillan with a recommendation from Keynes: "[...] Clark is, I think, a bit of a genius: almost the only economic statistician I have ever met who seems to me quite first-class."[2]

Move to Australia

Colin Clark's sector model of an economy undergoing technological change. In later stages, the Quaternary sector of the economy grows.

During a visit to Australia and New Zealand in 1937 and 1938 he accepted a position with the Queensland Government at the invitation of the premier Forgan Smith.[3] At the time he wrote to Keynes about his decision to stay in Australia. As he put it, the chance to advise the Queensland Premier on 'practically everything connected with economic matters' was 'too remarkable an opportunity to be missed for putting economics into practice'[4]

On 6 May 1938, he was appointed Government Statistician, Director of the Bureau of Industry, and Financial Advisor to Queensland Treasury, and provided the State's first set of economic accounts in 1940. He also held the position of Deputy Director (Queensland) of the Commonwealth Department of War Organisation of Industry from 1942 to 1946. Clark resigned as Government Statistician on 28 February 1947 to become Under Secretary of the Queensland Department of Labour and Industry.[5]

Unusually for a public servant he continued his academic work, publishing numerous articles in Economics and preparing his book "Conditions of Economic Progress" which was published in 1940.

Later Years

In 1951 he took a secondment to the Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome (1951) and then to the University of Chicago (1952) before taking the Directorship of the Institute for Agricultural Economics at Oxford University (1952–69). He returned to Australia in 1969 as the Director of the Institute of Economic Progress at Monash University (1969–78) and finally as a Research Consultant to the Department of Economics at the University of Queensland until his death in 1989.

He was on the Council of the Econometric Society from 1948 to 1952.[6]


Clark married Marjorie Tattersall in 1931, and they had 8 sons and 1 daughter who in turned produced a total of 40 grandchildren. His son Gregory became an author and academic in Japan.


Clark died in Brisbane, Australia in 1989. He is buried together with his wife Marjorie at the Mount Gravatt Cemetery in Brisbane (Section 3B).[7]


In 1984 he was named by the World Bank as one of the pioneers of development along with Sir Arthur Lewis, Gunnar Myrdal, W.W. Rostow and Jan Tinbergen.[8]

In 1987 Clark was together with Professor Trevor Swan the first recipient of the Distinguished Fellow awards, presented by The Economic Society of Australia.[9]






  1. The college retains a small collection of his papers
  2. Don Patinkin, "Keynes and Econometrics: On the Interaction between the Macroeconomic Revolutions of the Interwar Period," Econometrica, Vol. 44, No. 6 (Nov. 1976), pp. 1091–1123
  3. Clark named his second son Nicholas Forgan in recognition of Smith's offer
  7. Australian Dictionary of Biography entry for Clark
  8. Peters, G. "Colin Clark (1905–89) Economist and Agricultural Economist," QEH Working Paper Series, Working Paper Number 69, April 2001
  10. "A guide to the Great Court". 1992-01-01.

External links

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