MacroScope

Five lesser-known facts about Yellen and Summers

August 15, 2013

U.S. President Barack Obama will announce in the fall who he wants to see succeed Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve. Here are five points of intersection between the two front runners, Fed Vice Chair Janet Yellen and former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers:

(1) Both got their first academic jobs at Harvard. Yellen never got tenure, moving to the London School of Economics and then landing a tenured post at the University of California, Berkeley, where she is currently a professor emeritus. Summers got tenure a year after he got his Harvard PhD, and later became the university’s president.

(2) Two of Summers’ uncles, one on his father’s side and the other on his mother’s, were Nobel prize-winning economists. Yellen has one Nobel prize-winning economist in her family: her husband, George Akerlof.

(3) Both have an affinity for movies. Yellen once used Five Easy Pieces to illustrate the negative effects of monopolies, explaining how “commodity bundling” forced Jack Nicholson to order a chicken salad sandwich, hold the chicken, lettuce and mayo, just to get the piece of toast he wanted. Summers was portrayed by Douglas Urbanski in the movie Social Network as an arrogant university president who brushed off the Winklevoss twins’ complaint that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg stole their idea. Summers later said the portrayal was fairly accurate.

(4) Both have thoughts about women’s underrepresentation in high-level jobs. Summers once said women probably aren’t as interested in working in such jobs, and also blamed a “different availability of aptitude at the high end” between men and women. Yellen attributed women’s underrepresentation in the upper levels of most organizations to an unspecified “variety of reasons. And it’s probably going to take a long time to change that.”

(5) Both were presidential advisers on economic issues. Summers directed the White House National Economic Council for President Barack Obama from January 2009 until November 2010. Yellen chaired the the White House Council of Economic Advisers under President Bill Clinton form 1997 to 1999.

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