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Richard Thaler is an economist from the United States of America who was awarded the 2017 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. He has been a longtime collaborator and friend of another Nobel laureate, Daniel Kahneman, who previously stated that it would be a scandal if Thaler were not nominated for the Nobel Prize. At the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, Richard Thaler is the Charles R. Walgreen Distinguished Service Professor of Behavioral Science and Economics. He is widely regarded as one of the founding fathers of behavioral economics, a relatively new branch of economics that considers human frailties such as biases and a lack of willpower when determining how people make decisions. However, at one point, his attempts to incorporate human psychology into the highly mathematical field of economics were deemed so radical that he was unable to publish his work. He is now the co-author of the global best-selling book ‘Nudge: Improving Health, Wealth, and Happiness’ with Cass Sunstein. Interestingly, he was never particularly fond of math and instead desired to study psychology. While he considers himself “fairly good at math” in comparison to the average person, he believes he would perform poorly in a group of economists.

Childhood & Adolescence

Richard H. Thaler was born in East Orange, New Jersey, on September 12, 1945, to Alan M. Thaler and Roslyn Thaler (Melnikoff). He was raised in a Jewish family and had two younger brothers.

His father worked as an actuary for Prudential Financial in Newark, New Jersey, and his mother was a former school teacher who became a stay-at-home mother. His father desired that he follow in his footsteps as an actuary, but he had decided early in life not to be a businessman.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland in 1967. He was initially interested in psychology but chose the more “practical” field of economics due to the ease with which jobs could be obtained.

Following graduation from high school, he enrolled at the University of Rochester in New York, where he earned a master’s degree in 1970. He also earned a Ph.D. from there in 1974.

Career of Richard

Richard Thaler began his career as a professor at the University of Rochester after completing his studies there. He taught at Cornell University’s SC Johnson College of Business from 1978 to 1995, before transferring to the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business in 1995.

From 1987 to 1990, he was a regular contributor to the ‘Journal of Economic Perspectives’, where he garnered widespread attention in the field of economics.

He sought to document numerous distinct instances of economic behavior that appeared to violate traditional microeconomic theory through his extensive research.

In 1992, he published a collection of his ‘Anomalies’ columns from the ‘Journal of Economic Perspectives’ as ‘The Winner’s Curse: Economic Paradoxes and Anomalies’.

The book, which is based on his columns, challenges conventional economic theories by exposing the paradoxical nature of people’s actual economic behaviors.

As one of the pioneers of behavioral economics, he established a standard reference for this novel approach to finance with his 1993 book ‘Advances in Behavioral Finance.’ He stated that the new approach to finance “allows for the possibility that some economic agents behave less than completely rationally at times.”

He updated the book in 2005, renaming it ‘Advances in Behavioral Finance, Volume II (Roundtable Series in Behavioral Economics)’.

In 1994, he published ‘Quasi Rational Economics,’ in which he questioned why standard economic models frequently fail to accurately predict market behavior. He stated that the failure is a result of a refusal to consider the biases that color human judgments.

Since 1999, he has served as Principal of Fuller & Thaler Asset Management, which he co-founded with President Russell Fuller in 1993. Since 1991, he has also served as co-director of the National Bureau of Economic Research’s Behavioral Economics Project.

Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein co-authored the 2008 book ‘Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness’ to demonstrate how organizations can assist people in making better choices across a variety of domains. They did so by defending libertarian paternalism and active engineering of choice architecture, a term they coined to refer to the various ways in which consumers can be ‘nudged’ to make the correct choice.

He and his colleagues discovered evidence for path-dependent risk attitudes by analyzing the choices made by contestants on the popular television game show ‘Deal or No Deal’ in 2008. He co-authored the paper ‘Split or Steal?’ in September 2011. Cooperative Behavior When the Stakes Are High’ (January 2012), a study of cooperative behavior on the British game show Golden Balls.

He began writing columns for the New York Times News Service in 2010, offering a series of economic solutions to America’s financial problems. He argued in an article that selling portions of the most valuable radio spectrum used by over-the-air television broadcasts could significantly reduce the US deficit.

In 2015, he published ‘Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics,’ which expands on his previous work by arguing that human beings are biased and prone to error. The book is a comprehensive history of his profession, in which he recounts his lengthy but successful battle to persuade economists that humans “misbehave.”

Significant Works of Richard

Richard Thaler’s 2008 book with Cass Sunstein, ‘Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness,’ is one of his most well-known works in the field of behavioral economics. The book received overwhelmingly positive reviews and was named one of ‘The Economist’s’ best books of 2008.

Awards and Accomplishments

Richard Thaler was awarded the 2017 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for incorporating “psychologically plausible assumptions” into economic decision-making analyses. While he was lauded for demonstrating how human characteristics influence individual decisions, he stated that his greatest accomplishment was establishing economic agents’ human status.

Personal History and Legacies

Richard Thaler spent the academic year 1994-1995 as a visiting professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management in order to spend time with France Leclerc, a marketing faculty member at the school. They both enrolled in the then-new University of Chicago Graduate School of Business that year, and later married.

He is married to Leclerc for the second time and has three children. His wife later left her teaching position and now self-identifies as a traveler, a photographer, and a storyteller who travels the world documenting various cultures.

He served as a consultant to President Barack Obama’s administration and re-election campaign in 2012. He was also a formal adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron’s “Behavioural Insight Team” in the United Kingdom.

Estimated Net Worth

The estimated net worth of Richard is about $29.4 billion.


Richard Thaler made a cameo appearance in the 2015 American biographical comedy-drama film ‘The Big Short’ alongside pop star Selena Gomez. They appeared in a casino scene explaining the hot-hand fallacy.