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Yellen: The Trailblazing Economist Who Navigated an Era of Upheaval

Cover and Title of Yellen: The Trailblazing Economist Who Navigated an Era of Upheaval


HarperCollins, 2022


Cover and Title of Yellen: The Trailblazing Economist Who Navigated an Era of Upheaval




An engrossing and deeply human chronicle of the past fifty years of American economic and social upheaval, viewed through the consequential life of the most powerful woman in American economic history, Janet Yellen, and her unconventional partnership in marriage and work with Nobel Laureate George Akerlof.

At the dawn of the 21st century, many of America’s leaders believed that free trade, modern finance, technology, and wise government policy had paved the way for a new era of prosperity. Then came a cascade of disasters—a bursting tech bubble, domestic terror attacks, a housing market implosion, a financial system crisis, a deadly global pandemic. These events led to serial recessions, deepened America’s political fractures and widened the divide between those best off and everyone else.

Award-winning economics writer Jon Hilsenrath examines what happened, viewing events through the experiences of two historic figures: Janet Yellen was Treasury Secretary, Federal Reserve Chairwoman and Chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Her husband, George Akerlof, was an imaginative Nobel prize–winning economist.

Long before the upheaval of the past two decades, Akerlof warned of flaws in modern economic thinking; then Yellen had to fix the economy on the fly as it cracked.

In telling their story, Hilsenrath explores long-running intellectual battles over the fragile balance between unruly democratic government and unpredictable markets. He introduces readers to the cast of modern intellectuals and policy makers who deciphered, shaped, and steered these systems through prosperity, chaos, and reformation. And he explains what went wrong, why, and what might happen next.

What emerges is an absorbing examination of how humans think and behave, and how those actions shape markets, inform economic policy, and could determine the future of a now-deeply divided nation.

Hilsenrath reminds us that economics is neither science nor ideology, as some once wished or promised.

Economics is an endeavor.

Most good love stories are, too.

ByJon Hilsenrath

About the Author


Jon Hilsenrath

Public Policy Fellow;
Senior Economics Writer, the Wall Street Journal
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History and Public Policy Program

The History and Public Policy Program makes public the primary source record of 20th and 21st century international history from repositories around the world, facilitates scholarship based on those records, and uses these materials to provide context for classroom, public, and policy debates on global affairs.  Read more