(born Dec. 6, 1898, Gustafs, Dalarna, Swed.—died May 17, 1987, Stockholm) Swedish economist and sociologist. He received his Ph.D. from Stockholm University and taught there from 1933 until 1967. His early work emphasized pure theory, but he later focused on applied economics and social problems. He explored the social and economic problems of African Americans in the U.S. (1938–40) and in 1944 published the classic study An American Dilemma, in which he presented his theory that poverty breeds poverty. In regard to development economics, he argued that rich and poor countries, rather than converging economically, might well diverge, the poor countries becoming poorer as the rich countries enjoyed economies of scale and the poor ones were forced to rely on primary products. In 1974 he shared the Nobel Prize with Friedrich von Hayek. His wife, Alva Myrdal (1902–86), was a sociologist, diplomat, UN administrator, and antiwar activist; she shared the 1982 Nobel Peace Prize with Alfonso García Robles.
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Karl Gunnar Myrdal (6 December 1898 – 17 May 1987) was a Swedish economist, politician, and Nobel laureate. In 1974, with Friedrich Hayek, he received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for "pioneering work in the theory of money and economic fluctuations and for their penetrating analysis of the interdependence of economic, social and institutional phenomena.
Gunnar Myrdal himself is known for his 1944 study, An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy, which influenced the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education to outlaw racial segregation in public schools. Myrdal was also a signatory of the 1950 UNESCO statement The Race Question, which also influenced the Brown v. Board of Education decision.
In Gunnar Myrdal's doctoral dissertation, published in 1927, he examined the role of expectations in price formation. His analysis strongly influenced the Stockholm school. In his early research Myrdal anticipated ideas later developed by John Maynard Keynes.
He was professor of economics at the Stockholm School of Economics from 1933 to 1947 and simultaneously a Social Democratic Member of Parliament.
He coauthored with is wife, Alva Myrdal, the Crisis in the Population Question (Kris i befolkningsfrågan, 1934). The basic premise of Crisis in the Population Question is to find what social reforms are needed to allow for individual liberty (especially for women) while also promoting child-bearing. While heralding many sweeping social reforms seen as positive for Sweden, the book also incorporated some of the zeitgeist of the 1930s, in its promotion of the idea of eugenics and compulsory sterilization programs, which were actually practiced in Sweden until 1975.
Gunnar Myrdal then became Minister of Trade from 1945 to 1947. For the next 10 years he was Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe after which Asia and third world poverty commanded his attention for a while. His research about Asia and the causes of poverty resulted in his influential study "Asian Drama: An inquiry into the Poverty of Nations" (1968). Between 1960 and 1967 he was professor of international economics at Stockholm University. In 1961, he founded the Institute for International Economic Studies at the university. He shared the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences (otherwise known as the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics) with Friedrich Hayek in 1974, but argued for its abolition because it had been given to economic liberals such as Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman.
Myrdal is perhaps even more known for his influential and landmark book An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy, originally published in 1944 and commissioned by the Carnegie Foundation. The "American dilemma" is between high ideals on the one hand and poor performance on the other: in the two generations or more since the Civil War, the U.S. had not been able to put its human rights ideals into practice for the black (or Negro) tenth of its population. This comprehensive study of sociological (including economic), anthropological and legal data on black-white race relations in the U.S. was begun in 1938, after Myrdal was selected by the Carnegie Corporation to direct the study. It should be noted here that Myrdal planned on doing a similar study on the question of gender instead of race; however, he could not find the funding for this project so he never completed it.
Myrdal published many other notable works, both before and after this most notable work and, among many other contributions to social and public policy, founded and chaired the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Internationally revered as a father-figure of social policy, he contributed to social democratic thinking throughout the world, in collaboration with friends and colleagues in the political and academic arenas. Sweden and Britain were among the pioneers of a welfare state and books by Myrdal (Beyond the Welfare State - New Haven, 1958) and Richard Titmuss (Essays on “The Welfare State” - London, 1958) unsurprisingly explore similar themes.