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Who is Peter Diamond?

By Brendan McGuigan
Updated May 23, 2024
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Peter Diamond is an American economist, best known for his work as part of the Advisory Council on Social Security during the 1980s and 1990s, and for his development of the Diamond-Mirrlees Efficiency Theorem in the early-1970s. He was born in 1940, and from an early age was interested in mathematics and economics, leading him to a life of research and teaching.

Receiving a BA in Mathematics from Yale University in 1960, Peter Diamond earned his PhD from MIT in 1963, publishing a number of papers during this period. These early papers dealt primarily with the effects of the swelling national debt on the economy in the long-term. In 1964, Peter Diamond took a job as an assistant professor at the University of California at Berkeley, at the age of 24, before moving to MIT as an associate professor in 1966. He became a full professor in 1970, and in the 1980s acted as MIT’s Department of Economics head. In 1997 Peter Diamond was named Institute Professor at MIT, their highest honor, in recognition of his many years of achievement and advancement of the field of macroeconomics.

The work of Peter Diamond has spanned a great breadth, from work on commodity taxation to work looking at how periods of recession and prosperity in one sector impacted the market in other sectors. Peter Diamond has published many papers, with some of the most notable earlier pieces being “On Time,” and “A Search Equilibrium Approach to the Micro Foundations of Macro-economics.” His later work has focused primarily on Social Security in the United States, and the various issues surrounding it, with papers such as “Saving Social Security: A Balanced Approach,” “Social Security Reform,” and “Taxation, Incomplete Markets and Social Security.”

Peter Diamond is one of the most well-respected voices in the discussion of Social Security, and people on all sides of the issue consistently turn to his analysis when trying to craft or investigate policy. Social Security remains a hot issue in politics, and often the debate becomes obfuscated by partisan theorists and analyses of the factors involved. Peter Diamond has a reputation of stripping away the partisan issues and political drama, and investigating Social Security with a cool and level head, bringing a much-needed collectedness to the debate.

Some of the awards granted to Peter Diamond for his work on Social Security and other economic issues include two Guggenheim Fellowships, one in 1966 and one in 1982, the Mahalanobis Prize in 1980, and the Erwin Plein Nemmers Prize in Economics in 1994. He holds a number of positions in various academic groups as well, including as a founding member and president of the National Academy of Social Insurance, as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, as a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and as president of the Econometric Society and the American Economic Association.

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