Born in New York, New York, U.S.A., on 23 August 1921. Attended Townsend Harris High School and The City College, graduating in 1940 as Bachelor of Science in Social Science with a major in mathematics. Arrow's graduate study was at Columbia University, where he eventually received his Ph. D. in Economics in 1951. From 1942 to 1946 he served as a weather officer in the United States Army Air Forces, retiring with the rank of captain. He has been Research Associate at the Cowles Commission for Research in Economics, 1947-9, Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Chjcago, 1948-9, various ranks at Stanford University, becoming Professor of Economics. Statistics and Operations Research, 1949-1968, Professor of Economics and then University Professor at Harvard University, 1968-1979, and then Professor of Economics and of Operations Research at Stanford, 1979-1991. At which time I retired.
Arrow shared the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1972 with John R. Hicks for contributions to the theories of economic welfare and of general equilibrium. His work on the first topic is a clarification of the meaning of an improvement in economic welfare. His contribution is usually referred to as the theory of social choice. It can be interpreted as a theory of elections or as a theory of collective choice among alternative policies, economic or others. A number of criteria are proposed for rational social choice, each of which is eminently plausible; yet it is demonstrated that no method of social choice can satisfy all of these criteria.
General equilibrium is an approach to economic analysis which emphasizes the interconnectedness of the economy. Hicks had shown that the approach could be extended to dynamic issues, in which decisions about future and present actions are made simultaneously and with regard to their interactions. Arrow's work extended the analysis to cover the possibility of uncertainty as to future developments and (jointly with the late Gerard Debreu, who was later awarded the Nobel Memorial prize) showed that the equations governing general equilibrium were in fact consistent with each other.
Arrow's later work was concerned with the limits of the previous paradigms, particularly with the crucial role of the limits on information and differences in information among the members of the economy. Applications of this work to health economics and to the economics of the environment followed.
Kenneth Joseph Arrow died on 21 February 2017.