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Hendrik S. Houthakker

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Hendrik S. Houthakker

Hendrik S. Houthakker
Hendrik S Houthakker (1969)
Born (1924-12-31)December 31, 1924
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Died April 15, 2008(2008-04-15) (aged 83)
Lebanon, New Hampshire, United States
Nationality Dutch American
Institution Harvard University
Stanford University
Field Behavioral economics
Alma mater University of Amsterdam
Influenced Elhanan Helpman
Christopher A. Sims

Hendrik Samuel Houthakker (December 31, 1924 – April 15, 2008) was a Jewish Dutch-[1]American economist.

Life and career

Houthakker was born in Amsterdam. His father was a prominent art dealer. As a teenager he lived through the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands and, according to an interview he gave to the Valley News, was once arrested by the Gestapo but escaped and was sheltered for some months by a Roman Catholic family. He completed his graduate work at the University of Amsterdam in 1949. He taught at Stanford University from 1954 to 1960 and then completed the rest of his career at Harvard University. Houthakker served on President Nixon's Council of Economic Advisers from 1969 to 1971.

Houthakker's contributions to economic theory have been summarized by Pollak (1990).[2] He is particularly well known for the Strong Axiom of Revealed Preference, to which his name is often attached.[3] This paper reconciles Paul Samuelson's revealed preference approach to demand theory with the earlier ordinal utility approach of Eugene Slutsky and Sir John Hicks, by showing that demand functions satisfy his Strong Axiom if and only if they can be generated by maximising a set of preferences that are "well-behaved" in the sense that they satisfy the axioms of choice theory, that is, they are reflexive, transitive, complete, montononic, convex and continuous—essentially the conditions required for a Hicksian approach to demand theory.

Houthakker's wife, Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka, was a Polish-born philosopher and founder of the World Phenomenology Institute; they were married for 52 years, up to his death. Through her he became friendly with Karol Wojtyla, subsequently Pope John Paul II.

Selected bibliography

  • Houthakker, Hendrick S. (1959), "The scope and limits of futures trading", in  


  1. ^
  2. ^ Pollak, R. A. (1990). "Distinguished Fellow: Houthakker's Contributions to Economics".  
  3. ^ Houthakker, H. S. (1950). "Revealed preference and the utility function".  
  • Bernstein, Adam (2008-04-23). "Hendrik Houthakker, 83; Economist, Nixon Adviser". Obituaries (Washington Post). p. B07. Retrieved 2008-04-28. 
  • Valley News, 19 April 2003, article and interview with Houthakker.

External links

  • Home page at Harvard
  • Biography at the New School
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