Thomas Piketty: Biography highlights
Thomas Piketty is a French economist who specializes in the study of economic inequality. He has remained director of studies at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), is now the Associate Chair at the Paris School of Economics, and is the author of “Capital in the Twenty-First Century.”
Piketty was born on May 7, 1971, in Clichy, near Paris. He gained a C-stream (scientific) Baccalauréat, and after taking scientific preparatory classes, he entered the École Normale Supérieure (ENS) at the age of 18, where he studied mathematics and economics. At the age of 22, Piketty was awarded his Ph.D. for a thesis on the subject of wealth redistribution, which he had written at the EHESS and at the London School of Economics, under the supervision of Roger Guesnerie.
After his thesis, Piketty was an Assistant Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Economics Department from 1993 to 1995. In 1995, he joined the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) as a researcher, and in 2000 he became director of studies at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS).
From late 2006 to early 2007, he was the first head of the Paris School of Economics, after spending three years creating it. He quickly left, however, due to his support for Ségolène Royal in the French presidential campaign (which had compromised his neutrality obligation), and according to him, following a decision he had taken previously. Piketty has been back teaching at the Paris School of Economics since 2007, where he is Associate Chair.
Piketty specializes in economic inequality, with his works in this domain covering both theoretical and normative issues. At first, in the late 1990s, he took a historic and statistical approach.
Piketty’s work revealed that earnings inequalities dropped sharply during the 20th century in France, mostly after World War II. This was due, in large part, to a decrease in estate inequalities, while wage inequalities remained stable. According to Piketty, the decrease resulted from the strong growth in the progressivity of income tax after the war, which upset the dynamics of estate accumulation by reducing the surplus money available for saving by the wealthiest.
Piketty and Saez were named two of the 2012 FP Top 100 Global Thinkers “for making the graph that occupied Wall Street.”
Piketty is a columnist for Libération, and occasionally writes op-eds for Le Monde.