Obituary: Economist William J. Baumol, known for “Baumol’s cost disease,” 95

Posted on: May 8, 2017

“William J. Baumol, an economist who explained why the cost of college, an annual physical and a night at the symphony will outpace inflation—and why we need not throw up our arms in despair—died May 4 at his home in New York City,” writes Emily Langer in Sunday’s (5/7) Washington Post. “Baumol taught for more than 40 years at Princeton University and at New York University…. He was best known for the principle that came to bear his name: Baumol’s cost disease … the idea that personally delivered services … naturally and inevitably increase in price year after year…. As Dr. Baumol famously observed, a Mozart string quartet requires today the services of four musicians, the same manpower it took in the 18th century…. William Jack Baumol, a son of Eastern European immigrants, was born in the Bronx on Feb. 26, 1922. His father, a former bookbinder, ran a laundromat.… He studied economics and art at the College of the City of New York [and] received a PhD from the London School of Economics and Political Science…. He published hundreds of articles and several dozen books, among them [a] now-classic textbook, ‘Economics: Principles and Policy.’ ”

Posted May 8, 2017