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Passings / Hendrik Houthakker

Economist on consumer trends

May 01, 2008|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Hendrik S. "Hank" Houthakker, 83, a Harvard University economist and presidential advisor noted for his work advancing theories of consumer behavior, died April 15 of complications from myasthenia gravis at Genesis HealthCare in Lebanon, N.H.

Houthakker was the Henry Lee Professor of Economics at Harvard University from 1960 to 1994. He was briefly a senior staff economist to the White House Council of Economic Advisers before serving on the three-member panel from 1969 to 1971 under President Nixon.

Among economists, Houthakker may be best remembered for pivotal contributions he made to the technical analysis of consumer decision-making. His work on that subject first appeared in the journal Economica in 1950 and later earned him the American Economic Assn.'s John Bates Clark Medal for the most promising economist younger than 40.

His empirical work on consumer demand developed techniques for estimating relations that could predict consumption or expenditure patterns using prices, incomes and demographic variables such as numbers of people per household.

Houthakker was born in Amsterdam and graduated from the University of Amsterdam before joining the research staff at Cambridge University's applied economics department in England.

He came to the United States in 1952 to work at the University of Chicago. He later taught at Stanford before joining the Harvard faculty. He also was the editor of the Review of Economics and Statistics from 1971 to 1991.

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