Maurice Obstfeld, Distinguished Fellow 2023


Maurice (Maury) Obstfeld is the Class of 1958 Professor of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley. He earned his PhD in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and holds degrees in mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania and King's College, Cambridge University. He has taught at Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University and is a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research and a Research Fellow at the Centre for Economic Policy Research.  He has also served in prestigious positions outside of academia. He was a Member of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, served as Economic Counselor and Director of the Research Department at the International Monetary Fund and as an honorary adviser to the Bank of Japan’s Institute of Monetary and Economic Studies, and is a nonresident senior fellow of the Peterson Institute for International Economics as well as a member of the California Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers.

Maury is a Fellow of the Econometric Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Among his many honors, he received the Tilburg University’s Tjalling Koopmans Asset Award, the John von Neumann Award of the Rajk Laszlo College of Advanced Studies (Budapest), and the Kiel Institute’s Bernhard Harms Prize. He has given a number distinguished lectures, including the American Economic Association’s annual Richard T. Ely Lecture, the L. K. Jha Memorial Lecture of the Reserve Bank of India, the Frank Graham Memorial Lecture at Princeton, the Harry Johnson Lecture of the Money Macro and Finance Society, and the inaugural Mundell-Fleming Lecture of the International Monetary Fund. The International Monetary Fund honored Maury in its 23rd Annual Research Conference in November 2022.

Maury's contributions are in a wide range of areas in international finance. This work is marked by both technical sophistication and policy relevance—so that it speaks to both researchers and practitioners. His contributions have fundamentally changed modern analysis of global external imbalances, macroeconomic performance in an open economy, and financial crises.

Maury was an early and influential contributor to the intertemporal theory of the current account which has become the prevailing framework for understanding the dynamics of the current account and global imbalances. Building on this, he has published research on financial globalization. His book, co-authored with Alan Taylor, Global Capital Markets: Integration, Crisis, and Growth, analyzes the historical development of global capital markets from the classical gold standard to today in order to understand the forces that drive international financial market integration.

More recently, he has emphasized the importance, and consequences, of countries' gross foreign assets and liabilities which is distinct from its net international flows represented by the current account. Maury was among the first to stress the risks of global imbalances, particularly in light of the growing complexity of financial markets.

In a series of seminal articles with Kenneth Rogoff, Maury provided a new open economy Keynesian framework that incorporates intertemporal optimization by households, firms, welfare analysis. This inspired a large body of research studying the effects of monetary and fiscal policy within an open economy setup. Maury and Alan Taylor coined the term "trilemma," describing the tradeoffs among exchange rates, monetary policies, and capital mobility, which is a central concept in open-economy macroeconomics. Most recently, he has written on the dollar cycle and its implications for global economic stability which has attracted attention both within the profession and by commentators and policy advisers.

Maury has also written path-breaking work on currency crises and currency arrangements that are marked by his technical proficiency and his deep interest in policy questions. His work on self-fulfilling currency crises, that these crises can materialize through self-fulfilling beliefs and not just because of inconsistent policies, has been seen as especially relevant for episodes such as the 1992 European Monetary System crisis. In a series of influential papers leading up the European monetary union he analyzed whether member countries were sufficiently similar to survive a single monetary policy, and more importantly, whether they had the capacity to adjust to asymmetric shocks given a single monetary and exchange rate policy. This work was prescient and has led to important work in both international finance and the field of labor economics that focuses on the potential for changes in capital flows to lead to persistent disparities in unemployment rates across regions.

Much more could be said about Maury's research contributions to topics including the dynamics of open economies, exchange rate intervention policy, and the history of the international monetary system. He has authored well over one hundred journal articles and written or edited fifteen books. His Foundations of International Macroeconomics, written with Kenneth Rogoff, remains a classic textbook for doctoral students. International Economics, written with Paul Krugman and Marc Melitz, is a leading undergraduate textbook.

Maury's service to the profession has been exceptional. He has served as Chair of Berkeley's department of economics, on numerous editorial and advisory boards, has organized many conferences, and has served on the Executive Committee and as Vice President of the American Economic Association. He has also had a profound influence on generations of students, colleagues, and a huge diaspora of mentees around the globe. While devoted to science-based pursuits, he cares deeply about those around him. He centers human dignity and wellbeing in his daily interactions, making him not just an intellectual giant, but an inspirational role model. It was especially noteworthy at the 2022 IMF Annual Research Conference how virtually every presenter spoke of Maury's mentoring, his kind nature, generous spirit, and sincere personality.