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John R. Meyer
American economist

John R. Meyer

John R. Meyer
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American economist
Was Economist
From United States of America
Field Finance
Gender male
Birth 6 December 1927, Washington
Death 20 October 2009, Cambridge (aged 81 years)
The details (from wikipedia)


John Robert Meyer (1927 – October 20, 2009) was an American economist. He is credited with creating the field of transportation economics and was one of the pioneers of cliometrics.


Born in Pasco, Washington, Meyer attended Pacific University 1945–1946, after which he served in the United States Naval Reserve 1945–1948. He received his B.A. from the University of Washington in 1950 and his Ph.D (David A. Wells Prize) from Harvard University in 1955. His dissertation topic—business investment decisions—coincided with that of a Harvard classmate, Edwin Kuh, leading them to merge both papers and publish it as The Investment Decision: An Empirical Study in 1957. He was a Junior Fellow from 1953–1955. He married Lee Stowell (1928–2003) December 17, 1949 and they had three children, Leslie Karen, Ann Elizabeth and Robert Conrad.

Meyer was a professor at Harvard University's Department of Economics from 1955 to 1968, at Yale's Department of Economics from 1968 to 1973, and at the Harvard Business School from 1973 to 1983. He served and as the president of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) from 1967 to 1977, before the NBER was moved to Cambridge, MA. Meyer was a consultant to the National Transportation Policy Study Commission from 1977 to 1979. He served as vice chairman and board member of Union Pacific Railroad. He died on October 20, 2009 after a long period of battling with Parkinson's disease. At the time of his death he was the James W. Harpel Professor of Capital Formation Emeritus at Harvard Kennedy School.


Meyer was open to interdisciplinary collaboration in his research. He combined engineering with economics. In order to understand the cost structure in the transportation industry he had to work together with engineers. After years of services in such endeavors, Meyer received the Roy W. Crum Distinguished Service Award in 2002.

Transportation economics

Meyer and three co-authors (Merton Peck, John Stenason and Charles Zwick) published The Economics of Competition in the Transportation Industries in 1959. This book conducted a thorough analysis of costs and demand which enabled the authors to study what the railroad industry might look like if it were better governed. Regulation of railroads had implicitly given incentivizes to passenger over freight trains. This made railroads less efficient and also less profitable because intercity rail’s great comparative advantage was in moving goods over long distances. Meyer's second great influential book on transportation economics was The Urban Transportation Problem, co-authored with John Kain and Martin Wohl (an engineer). That book described the process of American suburbanization and the rapid switch from public transportation to cars.


Meyer was a pioneer of New Economic History, also called Cliometrics.

In 1958 and fellow Harvard professor Alfred H. Conrad published “The Economics of Slavery in the Antebellum South” in the Journal of Political Economy. Using rigorous statistics, the authors concluded that the view that slavery in the United States would have disappeared without the American Civil War, as puported by Charles W. Ramsdell, Ulrich Bonnell Phillips, and other historians, was “a romantic hypothesis which will not stand against the facts.” This anticipated the study by Nobel-laureate Robert Fogel, who would later conclude the same thing.

Prolific Writer

Among the books authored or co-authored by Meyer are:

Business Motivation and the Investment Decision: an Econometric Study of Postwar Investment Patterns in the Manufacturing Sector. (1955)

The Investment Decision : an Empirical Study, with Edwin Kuh (1957)

The Economics of Competition in the Transportation Industries, with others (1959)

Wage, Price, and National Income Relationships in Light of Recent Findings on the Behavior of Large Business Corporations., (1959)

New England's Transportation: a Fresh, New Look at Our Old Problems.(1962)

Technology and Urban Transportation, with John Kain and Martin Wohl (1962)

The Economics of Slavery : and Other Studies in Econometric History, with Alfred Conrad (1964)

Studies in Econometric History, with Alfred Conrad (1964)

Investment Decisions, Economic Forecasting, and Public Policy, with Robert Glauber (1964)

Transportation in the Program Budget, Meyer, John R. (1965)

The Urban Transportation Problem, with John Kain and Martin Wohl (1965)

An Analysis of Investment Alternatives in the Colombian Transport System; Final Report, with Paul Roberts and David Kresge

Essays in Regional Economics, with John Kain (1971)

Urban Transportation in Summary and Perspective, with John Kain and Martin Wohl (1972)

Measurement and Analysis of Productivity in Transportation Industries, (1975)

The Economics of U-shaped Costs, with Robert Leone (1979)

The Economics of Competition in the Telecommunications Industry, (1980)

The Impact of National Tax Policies on Homeownership, with Leslie Meyer (1981)

Airline Deregulation : the Early Experience, with Clinton Oster and others (1981)

Autos, Transit, and Cities, with Jose A. Gomez-Ibanez (1981)

Deregulation and the New Airline Entrepreneurs, with Clinton Oster and Mami Clippinger (1984)

Deregulation and the Future of Intercity Passenger Travel, with Clinton Oster and John Strong (1987)

The Transition to Deregulation : Developing Economic Standards for Public Policies, with Bill Tye (1991)

Private Toll Roads in the United States : the Early Experience of Virginia and California, with Jose A. Gomez-Ibanez (1991)

The Political Economy of Transport Privatization : Successes, Failures and Lessons from Developed and Developing Countries, with Jose A. Gomez-Ibanez (1992)

Going Private : the International Experience with Transport Privatization, with Jose A Ghomnez-Ibanez (1993)

Moving to Market : Restructuring Transport in the Former Soviet Union, with John Strong, Clell Harral and Graham Smith (1996)

The Role of Industrial and Post-industrial Cities in Economic Development, (2000)

American Railroads : Decline and Renaissance in the Twentieth Century, with Robert Gallamore (2014)

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