Jeffrey Sachs

Jeffrey Sachs

Jeffrey Sachs in Jakarta, Indonesia, 2011
Born (1954-11-05) November 5, 1954
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Nationality United States
Institution Columbia University
Field Political economics, International Development
School or
Keynesian economics[1]
Alma mater Harvard University
Martin Feldstein[2]
Alberto Alesina
Influences Paul Samuelson, John Maynard Keynes[1][3]
Influenced Nouriel Roubini
Contributions Millennium Villages Project

Jeffrey David Sachs (/ˈsæks/; born November 5, 1954) is an American economist and director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, where he holds the title of University Professor, the highest rank Columbia bestows on its faculty. He is known as one of the world's leading experts on economic development and the fight against poverty.

Sachs is the Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development at Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs and a professor of health policy and management at Columbia's School of Public Health. He is special adviser to the former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on the Millennium Development Goals, having held the same position under former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He is co-founder and chief strategist of Millennium Promise Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending extreme poverty and hunger. From 2002 to 2006, he was director of the United Nations Millennium Project's work on the Millennium Development Goals, eight internationally sanctioned objectives to reduce extreme poverty, hunger, and disease by the year 2015. He is director of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Since 2010 he also served as a commissioner for the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, which leverages broadband technologies as a key enabler for social and economic development.[4] Since 1995, he is also a member of the International Advisory Council of the Center for Social and Economic Research (CASE).

Sachs has authored three New York Times bestsellers: The End of Poverty (2005), Common Wealth (2008), and The Price of Civilization (2011). His most recent book is The Age of Sustainable Development (2015). He was named one of Time Magazine's "100 Most Influential People in the World" in 2004 and 2005, and was awarded the Blue Planet Prize in 2015 for his contributions to solving global environmental problems.[5]


Academic career

Sachs was raised in Oak Park, a suburb of Detroit, Michigan, the son of Joan (née Abrams) and Theodore Sachs, a labor lawyer.[6] He graduated from Oak Park High School and attended Harvard College, where he received his BA summa cum laude in 1976. He went on to receive his MA and Ph.D. in economics from Harvard with his thesis titled Factor Costs and Macroeconomic Adjustment in the Open Economy: Theory and Evidence,[7] and was invited to join the Harvard Society of Fellows while still a Harvard graduate student. In 1980 he joined the Harvard faculty as an assistant professor and was promoted to associate professor in 1982. A year later, at the age of 28, Sachs became a full professor of economics with tenure at Harvard.

During the next 19 years at Harvard, he became the Galen L. Stone Professor of International Trade, director of the Harvard Institute for International Development at the Kennedy School of Government (1995–99), and director of the Center for International Development (1999–2002).

In 2002 Sachs became director of the Earth Institute of Columbia University. His classes are taught at the School of International and Public Affairs and the Mailman School of Public Health, and his course "Challenges of Sustainable Development" is taught at the undergraduate level.

In his capacity as director of the Earth Institute, he leads a university-wide organization of more than 850 professionals from natural science and social science disciplines, in support of sustainable development. Sachs has consistently advocated for the expansion of university education on sustainable development, and helped to introduce the Ph.D. in sustainable development at Columbia University, one of the first Ph.D. programs of its kind in the U.S. He championed the new Masters of Development Practice (MDP), which has led to a consortium of major universities around the world offering the new degree. The Earth Institute has also guided the adoption of sustainable development as a new major at Columbia College. The Earth Institute is home to cutting-edge research on all aspects of earth systems and sustainable development.

Sachs's policy and academic works span the challenges of globalization, and include the relationship of trade and economic growth, the resource curse and extractive industries, public health and economic development, economic geography, strategies of economic reform, international financial markets, macroeconomic policy, global competitiveness, climate change, and the end of poverty. He has authored or co-authored hundreds of scholarly articles and several books, including three bestsellers and a textbook on macroeconomics that is widely used around the world.

In 2011 Sachs called for the creation of a third U.S. political party, the Alliance for the Radical Center.[8]

Advising in Latin America and postcommunist economies

Sachs is known for his work as an economic adviser to governments in Latin America, Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet Union. A trained macroeconomist, he advised a number of national governments in the transition from communism or developmentalism to market economies.

In 1985, when Bolivia was shifting from a dictatorship to a democracy through national elections, Sachs was invited by the party of Bolivian dictator Hugo Banzer to advise him on an anti-inflation economic plan to implement once he was voted to office. This stabilization plan centered around price deregulation, particularly for oil, as well as cuts to the national budget. Sachs stated that his plan could end Bolivian hyperinflation, which had reached up to 14,000%, in a single day.[9] Though Banzer ultimately lost the race to the party of former elected president and traditionally developmentalist Victor Paz Estenssoro, Sachs's plan was still implemented through plans that excluded most of Paz's cabinet. Inflation did quickly stabilize in Bolivia.[10][11]

In 1989 Sachs advised Poland's anticommunist Solidarity movement and the government of Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki. He wrote a comprehensive plan for the transition from central planning to a market economy, which became incorporated into Poland's reform program led by Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz. Sachs was the main architect of Poland's successful debt reduction operation. Sachs and IMF economist David Lipton advised the rapid conversion of all property and assets from public to private ownership. Closure of many uncompetitive factories ensued.[12] In Poland, Sachs was firmly on the side of rapid transition to "normal" capitalism. At first he proposed U.S.-style corporate structures, with professional managers answering to many shareholders and a large economic role for stock markets. That did not fly with the Polish authorities, but he then proposed that large blocks of the shares of privatized companies be placed in the hands of private banks.[13] As a result, there were some economic shortages and inflation, but prices in Poland eventually stabilized.[14] The government of Poland awarded Sachs with one of its highest honors in 1999, the Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit. He also received an honorary doctorate from the Cracow University of Economics.

Sachs's ideas and methods of transition from central planning were adopted throughout the transition economies. He advised Slovenia (1991) and Estonia (1992) in the introduction of new stable and convertible currencies. Based on Poland's success, he was invited first by Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev and then by Russian president Boris Yeltsin on the transition to a market economy. He served as adviser to Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar and Finance Minister Boris Federov during 1991–93 on macroeconomic policies. He received the Leontief Medal of the Leontief Centre, St. Petersburg, for his contributions to Russia's economic reforms.

Work on global sustainable economic development

More recently, Sachs has turned to global issues of economic development, poverty alleviation, health and aid policy, and environmental sustainability. He has written extensively on climate change, disease control, and globalization. Since 1995, he has been engaged in efforts to alleviate poverty in Africa.

Jeffrey Sachs at a UN Meeting, 2009

In his 2005 work, The End of Poverty, Sachs wrote, "Africa's governance is poor because Africa is poor." According to Sachs, with the right policies and key interventions, extreme poverty—defined as living on less than $1 a day—can be eradicated within 20 years. India and China serve as examples, with the latter lifting 300 million people out of extreme poverty during the last two decades. Sachs has said that a key element to accomplishing this is raising aid from $65 billion in 2002 to $195 billion a year by 2015. He emphasizes the role of geography and climate, as much of Africa is landlocked and disease-prone. However, he stresses that these problems can be overcome.[15]

Sachs suggests that with improved seeds, irrigation, and fertilizer, the crop yields in Africa and other places with subsistence farming can be increased from 1 ton per hectare to 3 to 5 tons per hectare. He reasons that increased harvests would significantly increase the income of subsistence farmers, thereby reducing poverty. Sachs does not believe that increased aid is the only solution. He also supports establishing credit and microloan programs, which are often lacking in impoverished areas.[16] Sachs advocates the distribution of free insecticide-treated bed nets to combat malaria. The economic impact of malaria has been estimated to cost Africa $12 billion per year. Sachs estimates that malaria can be controlled for $3 billion per year, thus suggesting that antimalaria projects would be an economically justified investment.[17]

The Millennium Villages Project, which he directs, operates in more than a dozen African countries and covers more than 500,000 people. The MVP has engendered considerable controversy associated as critics have questioned both the design of the project and claims made for its success. In 2012 The Economist reviewed the project and concluded "the evidence does not yet support the claim that the millennium villages project is making a decisive impact."[18] Critics have pointed to the failure to include suitable controls that would allow an accurate determination of whether the Projects methods were responsible for any observed gains in economic development. A 2012 Lancet paper claiming a 3-fold increase in the rate of decline in childhood mortality was criticized for flawed methodology, and the authors later admitted that the claim was "unwarranted and misleading".[19]

Sachs works closely with the Islamic Development Bank to scale up programs of integrated rural development and sustainable agriculture among the bank's member countries. One such project supports pastoralist communities in Eastern Africa, with six participating nations: Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, and South Sudan.

Since the adoption of the (MDGs) in 2000, Sachs has been the leading academic scholar and practitioner on the MDGs. He chaired the WHO Commission on Macroeconomics and Health (2000–01), which played a pivotal role in scaling up the financing of health care and disease control in the low-income countries to support MDGs 4, 5, and 6. He worked with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2000–01 to design and launch The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.[20] He worked closely with senior officials of the George W. Bush administration to develop the PEPFAR program to fight HIV/AIDS, and the PMI to fight malaria. On behalf of Annan, from 2002 to 2006 he chaired the UN Millennium Project, which was tasked with developing a concrete action plan to achieve the MDGs. The UN General Assembly adopted the key recommendations of the UN Millennium Project at a special session in September 2005. The recommendations for rural Africa are currently being implemented and documented in the Millennium Villages, and in several national scale-up efforts such as in Nigeria.

Now a special adviser to current secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, Sachs is still a leading advocate for the Millennium Development Goals, frequently meeting with foreign dignitaries and heads of state. He has also become a close friend of international celebrities Bono and Angelina Jolie, who traveled to Africa with Sachs to witness the progress of the Millennium Villages.[21]

Sachs has been a consistent critic of the International Monetary Fund and its policies around the world. He blasted international bankers for what he claims is a pattern of ineffective investment strategies.[22]

During the Greek government-debt crisis in July 2015, Sachs, with Heiner Flassbeck, Thomas Piketty, Dani Rodrik and Simon Wren-Lewis, published an open letter to the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, regarding Greek debt.[23]

Sachs is one of the founders of the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project.[24]


Sachs's economic philosophies have been the subject of both praise and criticism.

One of Sachs's strongest critics is William Easterly, a professor of economics at New York University. Easterly reproached The End of Poverty in his review for The Washington Post, and Easterly's 2006 book White Man's Burden is a response to Sachs's argument that poor countries are stuck in a "poverty trap" from which there is no escape except by massively scaled-up foreign aid. Sachs himself has emphasized the need for a multifaceted approach to economic development, of which increased and responsible foreign aid is nearly always a necessary part.[25] Easterly presents statistical evidence that he claims proves that many emerging markets attained their higher status without the large amounts of foreign aid Sachs proposes.[26]

Nina Munk author of the 2013 book The Idealist: Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty says that poverty eradication projects endorsed by Sachs, although well intended have, years later "left people even worse off than before".[27] Author Paul Theroux, commenting on Sachs's $120 million effort to aid Africa, says these temporary measures failed to create sustaining improvements but only "created dependence".[28]

Awards, praise and affiliations

Sachs has received many awards and honors. In 2015, he was awarded the Blue Planet Prize for his contributions to solving global environmental problems.[5] In 2004 and 2005, he was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by Time Magazine. He was also named one of the "500 Most Influential People in the Field of Foreign Policy" by the World Affairs Councils of America.[29]

In 2005 he received the Sargent Shriver Award for Equal Justice. In 2007 Sachs was awarded the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian honor bestowed by the government of India.[30] Also in 2007, he received the Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution International Advocate for Peace Award as well as the Centennial Medal from the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences for his contributions to society.[31]

In 2007 Sachs received the S. Roger Horchow Award for Greatest Public Service by a Private Citizen, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards.[32]

From 2000 to 2001, Sachs was chairman of the Commission on Macroeconomics and Health[33] of the World Health Organization, and from 1999 to 2000 he served as a member of the International Financial Institution Advisory Commission established by the U.S. Congress. Sachs has been an adviser to the World Bank, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the World Health Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and the United Nations Development Program. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Harvard Society of Fellows, the Fellows of the World Econometric Society, the Brookings Panel of Economists, the National Bureau of Economic Research, and the Board of Advisers of the Chinese Economists Society, among other international organizations.[31]

Sachs has received honorary degrees from Connecticut College, Lehigh University, Pace University, the State University of New York, Cracow University of Economics, Ursinus College, Whitman College, the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Ohio Wesleyan University, the College of the Atlantic, Southern Methodist University, Simon Fraser University, McGill University, Southern New Hampshire University, St. John's University, Iona College, University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, the Lingnan College of Hong Kong, the University of Economics Varna in Bulgaria,[31] Bryant University,[34] and the University of Michigan.

Sachs is first holder of the Royal Professor Ungku Aziz Chair in Poverty Studies at the Centre for Poverty and Development Studies at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for 2007–09. In addition, he holds an honorary professorship at the Universidad del Pacifico in Peru. He has lectured at the London School of Economics, the University of Oxford, and Yale University, as well as in Tel Aviv and Jakarta.[31]

In September 2008 Vanity Fair magazine ranked Sachs 98th on its list of 100 members of the New Establishment.

In July 2009 Sachs became a member of the SNV Netherlands Development Organisation's International Advisory Board.[35]

In 2009 Princeton University's American Whig-Cliosophic Society awarded Sachs the James Madison Award for Distinguished Public Service.[36]


Sachs is the author of hundreds of academic articles and many books, including three New York Times bestsellers: The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time (Penguin, 2005), Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet (Penguin, 2008), and The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity (Random House, 2011).

He writes a monthly foreign affairs column for Project Syndicate, a nonprofit association of newspapers around the world that is circulated in 145 countries.[37] He is also a frequent contributor to such major publications as the Financial Times,[38][39] Scientific American, Time Magazine, and The Huffington Post.

Selected works


Sachs lives in New York City with his wife Sonia Ehrlich Sachs, a pediatrician. They have three children: Lisa, Adam, and Hannah Sachs.

See also


  1. 1 2 "Janet Shan, "Keynesian Economist, Jeffrey Sachs Says President Obama's Stimulus has Failed", June 7, 2010". 2010-06-07. Retrieved 2014-02-19.
  2. Sachs's CV
  3. Simon Zadek, "Sustainable finance is the way out of crisis", 29 August 2011 at
  4. Archived May 14, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. 1 2 "ブループラネット賞英米2経済学者に" (in Japanese). SciencePortal (Japan Science and Technology Agency). 2015-06-19. Retrieved 2015-08-09.
  6. "Theodore Sachs Labor Lawyer, 72 – New York Times". 2001-03-13. Retrieved 2014-02-19.
  7. "Factor Costs and Macroeconomic Adjustment in the Open Economy: Theory and Evidence". Harvard University Library.
  8. Sachs, Jeffrey R. (2011). The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity. Random House, pp. 247–48. ISBN 978-0-8129-8046-2.
  9. Sachs, Jeffrey D. (2005). : Economic Possibilities for Our TimeThe End of Poverty. New York: Penguin. pp. 90–93.
  10. Conaghan and Malloy (1994). Unsettling Statecraft: Democracy and Neoliberalism in the Central Andes. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. p. 198.
  11. Bridges, Tyler (June 29, 1987). "Dallas Morning News". Bolivia Turns to Free Enterprise Among Hard Times.
  12. Hardy, Jane (2009). Poland's New Capitalism. London: Pluto Press.
  13. Doug Henwood. "Left Business Observer #111, August 2005". Retrieved 2014-02-19.
  14. Jeffrey Sachs and David Lipton (1990-06-01). "Lipton, David and Sachs, Jeffrey. Foreign Affairs, 1990". Retrieved 2014-02-19.
  15. "United Nations Millennium Project, 2006". 2007-01-01. Retrieved 2014-02-19.
  16. Booth, Mindy. UN Capital Development Fund, 2005 at the Wayback Machine (archived June 8, 2007)
  17. "Medical News Today, 2007". 2007-06-24. Retrieved 2014-02-19.
  18. "Jeffrey Sachs and the millennium villages: Millennium bugs". Retrieved September 10, 2015.
  19. "Does It Take a Village?". June 24, 2013.
  20. Kidder, Tracy (2003). Mountains Beyond Mountains. New York: Random House. p. 257.
  21. "Purcell, Myrlia. Look to the Stars: The World of Celebrity Giving, 2006". Retrieved 2014-02-19.
  22. "Sachs, Jeffrey. The Financial Times, 1997". Retrieved 2014-02-19.
  23. "Jetzt ist der Zeitpunkt, die gescheiterte Sparpolitik zu überdenken". 2015-07-07. Retrieved 2015-07-08.
  24. Justin Gillis (1 December 2015). "A Path Beyond the Paris Climate Change Conference". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 December 2015. Dr. Sachs helped start what is perhaps the most serious effort to draw up a detailed road map for the energy transition: the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project, based in Paris and New York. Over the past couple of years, the effort enlisted teams from 16 countries, which account for the large majority of global emissions, to devise such plans.
  25. Sachs, Jeffrey (2005). The End of Poverty
  26. "A Modest Proposal". 2005-03-13. Retrieved 2014-02-19.
  27. "Anna Maria Tremonti, "The Quest to End Poverty: Nina Munk", CBC Radio, 2013-09-10". 2013-09-10. Retrieved 2014-02-19.
  28. Paul Theroux (Nov 30, 2013). "Africa's Aid Mess". Barron's.
  29. "British Broadcasting Company, 2007". 2007-04-11. Retrieved 2014-02-19.
  30. "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Retrieved July 21, 2015.
  31. 1 2 3 4 The Earth Institute at Columbia University, 2008 at the Wayback Machine (archived February 5, 2009)
  32. "National Winners | public service awards". Jefferson Retrieved 2014-02-19.
  33. "WHO | Commission on Macroeconomics and Health (CMH)". Retrieved 2014-02-19.
  34. Economist Jeffrey Sachs receives honorary degree, calls Bryant’s blend of business and liberal arts ‘truly pathbreaking’, Bryant University News and Media Relations, May 19, 2012
  35. Archived July 28, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  36. Archived May 9, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  37. Project Syndicate, 2014
  38. i.e. April 29, 2013: Austerity exposes the global threat from tax havens
  39. "List of articles". 2013-12-02. Retrieved 2014-02-19.

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