Gustav Ranis, former Yale professor and economist, dies at 83

Gustav Ranis GRD ’53 ‘56, a professor emeritus of international economics at Yale, died on Oct. 15. He was 83.

Ranis was a leader in the field of development economics. He headed the Economic Growth Center at Yale from 1967 to 1975 and 1992 to 1992, and the Yale Center for International and Area Studies — now known as the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies — from 1995 to 2004.

“Gus was a most thoughtful academic, an energetic and always welcoming university citizen, and director with many initiatives and programs to his credit,” said chair of the economics department Dirk Bergemann in a Yale press release, adding that Ranis was a close friend of his and a cherished teacher and colleague.

Over the course of his academic career, Ranis wrote more than 20 books and 300 articles on the theory and policy-related aspects of development economics. His 1964 book “Development of the Labor Surplus Economy: Theory and Policy” — which he cowrote with now-retired Yale professor John Fei — has sparked new debate in the field.

After completing his Ph.D. in economics at Yale in 1956, Ranis was an economist with the Ford Foundation’s Overseas Development Program and the joint director of the Pakistan Institute of Developmental Economics before joining the Yale faculty in 1960. Although he remained a professor at Yale until his retirement in 2005, Ranis continued to advise international organizations such as the World Bank and the Rockefeller Foundation and developing countries throughout his career.

“When he took the helm [of the MacMillan Center], he really grew the depth and breath of our programs,” said Ian Shapiro, the current Henry R. Luce Director of the MacMillan Center, in the release. Shapiro added that the center and “everyone with international interests at Yale will always be in his debt.”

Ranis was also deeply committed to his alma mater, Brandeis University, where he received his undergraduate degree as valedictorian and class president in 1952. He was a member of Brandeis’s Board of Trustees and also served as an important fundraiser for the university.

Ranis is survived by his wife and brother, two sons, a daughter, and four grandchildren.

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