Jeffrey David Sachs (/sæks/; born November 5, 1954) is an American economist, public policy analyst, and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, where he holds the title of University Professor, the highest rank Columbia bestows on its faculty. He is known as one of the world's leading experts on economic development and the fight against poverty.
Sachs is the Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development at Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs and a professor of health policy and management at Columbia's School of Public Health. As of 2017, he serves as special adviser to the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of 17 global goals adopted at a UN summit meeting in September 2015. He held the same position under the previous UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and prior to 2016 a similar advisory position related to the earlier Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight internationally sanctioned objectives to reduce extreme poverty, hunger and disease by the year 2015. In connection with the MDGs, he had first been appointed special adviser to the UN Secretary-General in 2002 during the term of Kofi Annan.
In 1995, Sachs became a member of the International Advisory Council of the Center for Social and Economic Research (CASE). He is co-founder and chief strategist of Millennium Promise Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending extreme poverty and hunger. From 2002 to 2006, he was director of the United Nations Millennium Project's work on the MDGs. He is director of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network and co-editor of the World Happiness Report with John F. Helliwell and Richard Layard. In 2010, he became a commissioner for the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, whose stated aim is to boost the importance of broadband in international policy. Sachs has written several books and received many awards.
Sachs at the 2011 World Economic Forum
November 5, 1954|
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
|Field||Political economics, International Development|
|Alma mater||Harvard University|
Michael C. Burda
|Contributions||Millennium Villages Project|
Sachs was raised in Oak Park, a suburb of Detroit, Michigan, the son of Joan (née Abrams) and Theodore Sachs, a labor lawyer. He graduated from Oak Park High School and attended Harvard College, where he received his bachelor of arts summa cum laude in 1976. He went on to receive his MA and Ph.D. in economics from Harvard with his thesis titled Factor Costs and Macroeconomic Adjustment in the Open Economy: Theory and Evidence, and was invited to join the Harvard Society of Fellows while still a Harvard graduate student.
In 1980 he joined the Harvard faculty as an assistant professor and was promoted to associate professor in 1982. A year later, at the age of 28, Sachs became a full professor of economics with tenure at Harvard.
During the next 19 years at Harvard, he became the Galen L. Stone Professor of International Trade, director of the Harvard Institute for International Development at the Kennedy School of Government (1995–1999), and director of the Center for International Development (1999–2002).
From 2002 to 2016 Sachs served as director of the Earth Institute of Columbia University, a university-wide organization of more than 850 professionals from natural science and social science disciplines, with a common mission to address complex issues facing the Earth, in support of sustainable development. Sachs's classes are taught at the School of International and Public Affairs and the Mailman School of Public Health, and his course "Challenges of Sustainable Development" is taught at the undergraduate level.
Sachs has consistently advocated for the expansion of university education on sustainable development. He helped to introduce the Ph.D. in sustainable development at Columbia University, one of the first Ph.D. programs of its kind in the U.S., and championed the new Masters of Development Practice (MDP), which led to a consortium of major universities around the world offering the new degree. The Earth Institute also guided the adoption of sustainable development as a new major at Columbia College.
Sachs's policy and academic works span the challenges of globalization, and include the relationship of trade and economic growth, the resource curse and extractive industries, public health and economic development, economic geography, strategies of economic reform, international financial markets, macroeconomic policy, global competitiveness, climate change, and the end of poverty. He has written or co-authored hundreds of scholarly articles and several books, including three bestsellers and a textbook on macroeconomics.
Sachs has worked as an economic adviser to governments in Latin America, Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet Union. A trained macroeconomist, he advised a number of national governments in the transition from communism or developmentalism to market economies.
In 1985, when Bolivia was shifting from a dictatorship to a democracy through national elections, Sachs was invited by the party of Bolivian dictator Hugo Banzer to advise him on an anti-inflation economic plan to implement once he was voted to office. This stabilization plan centered around price deregulation, particularly for oil, as well as cuts to the national budget. Sachs stated that his plan could end Bolivian hyperinflation, which had reached up to 14,000%, in a single day. Though Banzer ultimately lost the race to the party of former elected president and traditionally developmentalist Victor Paz Estenssoro, Sachs's plan was still implemented through plans that excluded most of Paz's cabinet. Inflation quickly stabilized in Bolivia.
In 1989 Sachs advised Poland's anticommunist Solidarity movement and the government of Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki. He wrote a comprehensive plan for the transition from central planning to a market economy, which became incorporated into Poland's reform program led by Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz. Sachs was the main architect of Poland's successful debt reduction operation. Sachs and IMF economist David Lipton advised the rapid conversion of all property and assets from public to private ownership. Closure of many uncompetitive factories ensued. In Poland, Sachs was firmly on the side of rapid transition to "normal" capitalism. At first he proposed U.S.-style corporate structures, with professional managers answering to many shareholders and a large economic role for stock markets. That did not fly with the Polish authorities, but he then proposed that large blocks of the shares of privatized companies be placed in the hands of private banks. As a result, there were some economic shortages and inflation, but prices in Poland eventually stabilized. The government of Poland awarded Sachs with one of its highest honors in 1999, the Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit. He also received an honorary doctorate from the Cracow University of Economics.
Sachs's ideas and methods of transition from central planning were adopted throughout the transition economies. He advised Slovenia (1991) and Estonia (1992) in the introduction of new stable and convertible currencies. Based on Poland's success, he was invited first by Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev and then by Russian president Boris Yeltsin on the transition to a market economy. He served as adviser to Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar and Finance Minister Boris Federov during 1991–93 on macroeconomic policies.
More recently, Sachs has turned to global issues of economic development, poverty alleviation, health and aid policy, and environmental sustainability. He has written extensively on climate change, disease control, and globalization. Since 1995, he has been engaged in efforts to alleviate poverty in Africa.
In his 2005 work, The End of Poverty, Sachs wrote, "Africa's governance is poor because Africa is poor." According to Sachs, with the right policies and key interventions, extreme poverty—defined as living on less than $1 a day—can be eradicated within 20 years. India and China serve as examples, with the latter lifting 300 million people out of extreme poverty during the last two decades. Sachs has said that a key element to accomplishing this is raising aid from $65 billion in 2002 to $195 billion a year by 2015. He emphasizes the role of geography and climate, as much of Africa is landlocked and disease-prone. However, he stresses that these problems can be overcome.
Sachs suggests that with improved seeds, irrigation, and fertilizer, the crop yields in Africa and other places with subsistence farming can be increased from 1 ton per hectare to 3 to 5 tons per hectare. He reasons that increased harvests would significantly increase the income of subsistence farmers, thereby reducing poverty. Sachs does not believe that increased aid is the only solution. He also supports establishing credit and microloan programs, which are often lacking in impoverished areas. Sachs advocates the distribution of free insecticide-treated bed nets to combat malaria. The economic impact of malaria has been estimated to cost Africa $12 billion per year. Sachs estimates that malaria can be controlled for $3 billion per year, thus suggesting that anti-malaria projects would be an economically justified investment.
The Millennium Villages Project, which he directs, operates in more than a dozen African countries and covers more than 500,000 people. The MVP has engendered considerable controversy associated as critics have questioned both the design of the project and claims made for its success. In 2012 The Economist reviewed the project and concluded "the evidence does not yet support the claim that the millennium villages project is making a decisive impact." Critics have pointed to the failure to include suitable controls that would allow an accurate determination of whether the Projects methods were responsible for any observed gains in economic development. A 2012 Lancet paper claiming a 3-fold increase in the rate of decline in childhood mortality was criticized for flawed methodology, and the authors later admitted that the claim was "unwarranted and misleading".
Sachs works closely with the Islamic Development Bank to scale up programs of integrated rural development and sustainable agriculture among the bank's member countries. One such project supports pastoralist communities in Eastern Africa, with six participating nations: Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, and South Sudan.
Following the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), in 2000, Sachs was among the leading academic scholars and practitioners on the MDGs. He chaired the WHO Commission on Macroeconomics and Health (2000–01), which played a pivotal role in scaling up the financing of health care and disease control in the low-income countries to support MDGs 4, 5, and 6. He worked with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2000–2001 to design and launch The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. He also worked with senior officials of the George W. Bush administration to develop the PEPFAR program to fight HIV/AIDS, and the PMI to fight malaria. On behalf of Annan, from 2002 to 2006 he chaired the UN Millennium Project, which was tasked with developing a concrete action plan to achieve the MDGs. The UN General Assembly adopted the key recommendations of the UN Millennium Project at a special session in September 2005. The recommendations for rural Africa are currently being implemented and documented in the Millennium Villages, and in several national scale-up efforts such as in Nigeria.
In his capacity as a special adviser at the UN, Sachs has frequently met with foreign dignitaries and heads of state. He developed a friendship with international celebrities Bono and Angelina Jolie, who traveled to Africa with Sachs to witness the progress of the Millennium Villages.
Sachs has consistently criticised the International Monetary Fund and its policies around the world, and blamed international bankers for what he claims is a pattern of ineffective investment strategies.
During the Greek government-debt crisis in July 2015, Sachs, with Heiner Flassbeck, Thomas Piketty, Dani Rodrik and Simon Wren-Lewis, published an open letter to the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, regarding Greek debt.
In April 2018, he supported President Trump's view that the United States should come out of Syria “very soon,” adding: "It’s long past time for the United States to end its destructive military engagement in Syria and across the Middle East, though the security state seems unlikely to let this happen."
Sachs's economic philosophies have been the subject of both praise and criticism. One of Sachs's strongest critics is William Easterly, a professor of economics at New York University. Easterly reproached The End of Poverty in his review for The Washington Post, and Easterly's 2006 book White Man's Burden is a response to Sachs's argument that poor countries are stuck in a "poverty trap" from which there is no escape except by massively scaled-up foreign aid. Sachs himself has emphasized the need for a multifaceted approach to economic development, of which increased and responsible foreign aid is nearly always a necessary part. Easterly presents statistical evidence that he claims proves that many emerging markets attained their higher status without the large amounts of foreign aid Sachs proposes.
Nina Munk, author of the 2013 book The Idealist: Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty, says that poverty eradication projects endorsed by Sachs, although well intended, have - years later - "left people even worse off than before". Author Paul Theroux, commenting on Sachs's $120 million effort to aid Africa, says these temporary measures failed to create sustaining improvements but only "created dependence".
In 2015 Sachs was awarded the Blue Planet Prize for his contributions to solving global environmental problems. In 2004 and 2005 he was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by Time Magazine. He was also named one of the "500 Most Influential People in the Field of Foreign Policy" by the World Affairs Councils of America.
In 2005 he received the Sargent Shriver Award for Equal Justice. In 2007 Sachs was awarded the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian honor bestowed by the government of India. Also in 2007, he received the Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution International Advocate for Peace Award and the Centennial Medal from the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences for his contributions to society.
From 2000 to 2001, Sachs was chairman of the Commission on Macroeconomics and Health of the World Health Organization, and from 1999 to 2000 he served as a member of the International Financial Institution Advisory Commission established by the U.S. Congress. Sachs has been an adviser to the World Bank, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the World Health Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and the United Nations Development Program. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Harvard Society of Fellows, the Fellows of the World Econometric Society, the Brookings Panel of Economists, the National Bureau of Economic Research, and the Board of Advisers of the Chinese Economists Society, among other international organizations. Sachs is first holder of the Royal Professor Ungku Aziz Chair in Poverty Studies at the Centre for Poverty and Development Studies at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for 2007–09. He holds an honorary professorship at the Universidad del Pacifico in Peru. He has lectured at the London School of Economics, the University of Oxford, and Yale University, and in Tel Aviv and Jakarta.
In September 2008 Vanity Fair magazine ranked Sachs 98th on its list of 100 members of the New Establishment. In July 2009 Sachs became a member of the SNV Netherlands Development Organisation's International Advisory Board. In 2009 Princeton University's American Whig-Cliosophic Society awarded Sachs the James Madison Award for Distinguished Public Service.
Sachs has received honorary degrees from Bryant University, the College of the Atlantic, Connecticut College, Cracow University of Economics in Poland, Iona College, Lehigh University, the Lingnan College of Hong Kong, McGill University, the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Ohio Wesleyan University, Pace University, St. John's University, Simon Fraser University, Southern Methodist University, Southern New Hampshire University, the State University of New York, University of Brescia in Italy, University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, the University of Economics Varna in Bulgaria, Ursinus College, Whitman College and the University of Michigan.
Sachs has written hundreds of academic articles and many books, including three New York Times bestsellers: The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time (Penguin, 2005), Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet (Penguin, 2008), and The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity (Random House, 2011). His Building the New American Economy was published in 2017.
He writes a monthly foreign affairs column for Project Syndicate, a nonprofit association of newspapers around the world that is circulated in 145 countries. He is also a frequent contributor to such major publications as the Financial Times, Scientific American, Time Magazine, and The Huffington Post.
Dr. Sachs helped start what is perhaps the most serious effort to draw up a detailed road map for the energy transition: the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project, based in Paris and New York. Over the past couple of years, the effort enlisted teams from 16 countries, which account for the large majority of global emissions, to devise such plans.
Sachs, Theodore, Beloved husband of Joan. Dear father of Andrea Sachs, Jeffrey (Dr. Sonia Ehrlich) Sachs. Grandmother of Lisa, Adam and Hannah Sachs. Brother of the late Maurice Sachs, the late Sidney Sachs, the late Sol Sachs, and the late Freda Handelsman. Brother-in-law of Dr. Gerald and Gloria Abrams, Mary Sachs.