Jerry R. Green

David A. Wells Professor of Political Economy; John Leverett Professor in the University

Jerry Green is the John Leverett Professor in the University and the David A. Wells Professor of Political Economy in the Department of Economics.

His current research includes work on the economics of incentives, principles of equity for use in collective decision making and the use of data on choice to evaluate economic well-being.

Professor Green was one of the originators of the theory of rational expectations and of a variety of concepts and methods in the economics of incentives and information. He has pursued both the theory and applications of these ideas in his work. He was an early innovator in the analysis of the strategic uses of corporate financial management. He analyzed the growth consequences of corporate and capital gains taxation, the mortgage market, the risk characteristics of private pensions and the implications of patent policy for the pace of innovation.

Professor Green developed the required graduate course in economic theory at Harvard University, with which he has been involved with since 1970. He is a co-author, with Andreu Mas-Colell and Michael Whinston, of the leading graduate level textbook, Microeconomic Theory, (Oxford University Press, 1995, of Incentives in Public Decision Making (with Jean-Jacques Laffont, 1978), and over eighty scientific articles.

He is currently the chair of the Ph.D. Program in Business Economics at the Harvard Business School.

Professor Green joined the Harvard faculty in 1970, chaired the Economics Department from 1984 to 1987, and served as Provost of the University from 1992 to 1994. He is a Senior Fellow of Harvard's Society of Fellows and a Syndic of the Harvard University Press.

Professor Green is a Fellow of the Econometric Society and served on its Council from 1988 to 1994. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has been an Erskine Fellow at the University of Canterbury, and a Guggenheim Fellow. He is an Oversees Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge University. In 1980, he received the J.K.Galbraith Prize for excellence in teaching.

Professor Green chaired the National Science Foundation's Information Sciences Advisory Panel in 1980, prepared the Foundation's Ten-Year Outlook for the Social Sciences and served on the National Academy of Sciences Panel on Taxpayer Compliance. He has been an advisor to many universities and foundations.


Journal Articles

  1. Assent-maximizing Social Choice

    We take a decision theoretic approach to the classic social choice problem, using data on the frequency of choice problems to compute social choice functions. We define a family of social choice rules that depend on the population's preferences and on the probability distribution over the sets of feasible alternatives that the society will face. Our methods generalize the well-known Kemeny Rule. In the Kemeny Rule, it is known a priori that the subset of feasible alternatives will be a pair. We define a distinct social choice function for each distribution over the feasible subsets. Our rules can be interpreted as distance minimization—selecting the order closest to the population's preferences, using a metric on the orders that reflects the distribution over the possible feasible sets. The distance is the probability that two orders will disagree about the optimal choice from a randomly selected available set. We provide an algorithmic method to compute these metrics in the case where the probability of a given feasible set is a function only of its cardinality.

    Keywords: Decision Choices and Conditions; Theory; Measurement and Metrics; Mathematical Methods; Society;


    Baldiga, Katherine, and Jerry R. Green. "Assent-maximizing Social Choice." Social Choice and Welfare 40, no. 2 (2013): 439–460. View Details
  2. Let the Right One In: A Microeconomic Approach to Partner Choice in Mutualisms

    One of the main problems impeding the evolution of cooperation is partner choice. When information is asymmetric (the quality of a potential partner is known only to himself), it may seem that partner choice is not possible without signaling. Many mutualisms, however, exist without signaling, and the mechanisms by which hosts might select the right partners are unclear. Here we propose a general mechanism of partner choice, "screening," that is similar to the economic theory of mechanism design. Imposing the appropriate costs and rewards may induce the informed individuals to screen themselves according to their types and therefore allow a noninformed individual to establish associations with the correct partners in the absence of signaling. Several types of biological symbioses are good candidates for screening, including bobtail squid, ant-plants, gut microbiomes, and many animal and plant species that produce reactive oxygen species. We describe a series of diagnostic tests for screening. Screening games can apply to the cases where by-products, partner fidelity feedback, or host sanctions do not apply, therefore explaining the evolution of mutualism in systems where it is impossible for potential symbionts to signal their cooperativeness beforehand and where the host does not punish symbiont misbehavior.

    Keywords: Microeconomics; Strategy; Partners and Partnerships; System; Problems and Challenges; Information; Economics; Theory; Cost; Decision Choices and Conditions; Cooperation;


    Archetti, Marco, Francisco Ubeda, Drew Fudenberg, Jerry R. Green, Naomi E. Pierce, and Douglas W. Yu. "Let the Right One In: A Microeconomic Approach to Partner Choice in Mutualisms." American Naturalist 177, no. 1 (January 2011). View Details

Book Chapters

  1. On the General Relativity of Fiscal Language

    A century ago, everyone thought time and distance were well defined physical concepts. But neither proved absolute. Instead, measures/reports of time and distance were found to depend on one's reference point, specifically one's direction and speed of travel, making our apparent physical reality, in Einstein's words, “merely an illusion.” Like time and distance, standard fiscal measures, including deficits, taxes, and transfer payments, depend on one's reference point/reporting procedure/language/labels. As such, they, too, represent numbers in search of concepts that provide the illusion of meaning where none exists. This paper, dedicated to our dear friend David Bradford, provides a general proof that standard and routinely used fiscal measures, including the deficit, taxes, and transfer payments, are economically ill-defined. Instead these measures reflect the arbitrary labeling of underlying fiscal conditions. Analyses based on these and derivative measures, such as disposable income, private assets, and personal saving, represent exercises in linguistics, not economics.

    Keywords: Economics; Finance; Labels; Measurement and Metrics;


    Green, Jerry R., and Lawrence Kotlikoff. "On the General Relativity of Fiscal Language." In Institutional Foundations of Public Finance, edited by Alan J. Auerbach and Daniel Shaviro. Harvard University Press, 2009. View Details

Working Papers

Other Publications and Materials

  1. Choice-based Measures of Conflict in Preferences

    We propose a family of measures of difference between ordinal preference relations. The difference between two preferences is the probability that they would disagree about the optimal choice from a random available set. It is in this sense that these measures are choice-based. Measures differ according to the distribution of the random available sets. We use these measures to propose new social choice rules that achieve maximal average assent among the members of the population. We also propose two further applications of these measures. The first is to welfare measurement when choice is irrational. The second is to the measurement of polarization in a population.

    Keywords: Decision Choices and Conditions; Measurement and Metrics; Mathematical Methods; Conflict of Interests; Welfare or Wellbeing;


    Baldiga, Katherine, and Jerry R. Green. "Choice-based Measures of Conflict in Preferences." September 2009. (Discussion Paper.) View Details