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Janet Yellen
Secretary Janet Yellen portrait.jpg
Official portrait, 2021
78th United States Secretary of the Treasury
Assumed office
January 26, 2021
President Joe Biden
Deputy Wally Adeyemo
Preceded by Steven Mnuchin
15th Chair of the Federal Reserve
In office
February 3, 2014 – February 3, 2018
President Barack Obama
Donald Trump
Deputy Stanley Fischer
Preceded by Ben Bernanke
Succeeded by Jerome Powell
19th Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve
In office
October 4, 2010 – February 3, 2014
President Barack Obama
Preceded by Donald Kohn
Succeeded by Stanley Fischer
Member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors
In office
October 4, 2010 – February 3, 2018
President Barack Obama
Donald Trump
Preceded by Mark W. Olson
Succeeded by Lisa D. Cook
In office
August 12, 1994 – February 17, 1997
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by Wayne Angell
Succeeded by Edward Gramlich
11th President of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco
In office
June 14, 2004 – October 4, 2010
Preceded by Robert T. Parry
Succeeded by John C. Williams
18th Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers
In office
February 18, 1997 – August 3, 1999
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by Joseph Stiglitz
Succeeded by Martin Neil Baily
Personal details
Janet Louise Yellen

(1946-08-13) August 13, 1946 (age 77)
Brooklyn, New York City, U.S.
Political party Democratic
(m. 1978)
Children 1
Education Brown University (AB)
Yale University (MA, PhD)
Academic career
Field Macroeconomics
Labor economics
School or
New Keynesian economics
James Tobin
Joseph Stiglitz
Charles Engel
Influences John Maynard Keynes
Information at IDEAS / RePEc
Scientific career
Thesis Employment, Output and Capital Accumulation in an Open Economy: A Disequilibrium Approach (1971)

Janet Louise Yellen (born August 13, 1946) is an American economist serving as the 78th United States secretary of the treasury since January 26, 2021. She previously served as the 15th chair of the Federal Reserve from 2014 to 2018. Yellen is the first woman to hold each of those posts and the first person to have led the White House Council of Economic Advisers, the Federal Reserve, and the Treasury Department.

Born and raised in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, Yellen graduated from Brown University in 1967 and earned a Ph.D. in economics from Yale University in 1971. She taught as an assistant professor at Harvard University from 1971 until 1976 when she began working for the Federal Reserve Board as an economist from 1977 to 1978 before joining the faculty of the London School of Economics from 1978 to 1980. Yellen is professor emeritus at the Haas School of Business and the University of California, Berkeley, where she has been a faculty member since 1980 and became the Eugene E. and Catherine M. Trefethen Professor of Business and Professor of Economics.

Yellen was a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors from 1994 to 1997 nominated to position by President Bill Clinton, who then named her chair of the Council of Economic Advisers from 1997 to 1999. Yellen later served as president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco from 2004 to 2010. Afterwards, President Barack Obama appointed her to replace Donald Kohn as vice chair of the Federal Reserve from 2010 to 2014 before nominating her to succeed Ben Bernanke as chair of the Federal Reserve from 2014 to 2018. She had one of the shortest tenures in that position and was succeeded by Jerome Powell after President Donald Trump refused to renominate her for another term. Following resignation from the Federal Reserve, Yellen joined the Brookings Institution as a distinguished fellow in residence. She returned to government with appointment as secretary of the treasury under President Joe Biden since January 26, 2021. Secretary Yellen has been confirmed by the United States Senate on five separate occasions.

Early life and education

Yellen was born on August 13, 1946, to a family of Polish Jewish ancestry in the Bay Ridge, Brooklyn neighborhood of New York City, where she also grew up. Her mother was Anna Ruth (née Blumenthal; 1907–1986), an elementary school teacher, who quit teaching to become a stay-at-home mom, and her father was Julius Yellen (1906–1975), a family physician, who worked from the ground floor of their house. Janet has an older brother, John (b. 1942), a program director for archaeology at the National Science Foundation.

In a speech at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Yellen told that her father's family immigrated to the United States from Sokołów Podlaski, a small town about 50 miles outside of Warsaw. She shared that nearly the entirety of its Jewish population, including many of her relatives, was deported or murdered during the Holocaust.

Yellen attended local Fort Hamilton High School, where she was an honor society member, and participated in the boosters club, the psychology club, and the history club. She also served as editor-in-chief of The Pilot, the school newspaper, which continued its 13-year streak as the first-place winner of the prestigious Columbia Scholastic Press Association contest under her leadership. She earned a National Merit commendation letter and was admitted to a selective science honors program at Columbia University to voluntarily study mathematics on Saturday mornings. Yellen was one of 30 students to win state Regents scholarships for college, and one of a select few to win the mayor’s citation for scholarship. She graduated in 1963 as valedictorian of her class. In line with school tradition, for the editor to interview the valedictorian, she conducted an interview with herself in the third person.

Yellen enrolled at Pembroke College in Brown University, initially intending to study philosophy. However, during her freshman year, she switched her planned major to economics and was particularly influenced by professors George Herbert Borts and Herschel Grossman. As a freshman at college, she also joined the business staff of The Brown Daily Herald, but soon afterward left the paper to focus on her academic studies. Yellen graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a bachelor's in economics from Brown University in 1967, and earned her master's and PhD in economics from Yale University in 1971. Her dissertation was titled Employment, Output and Capital Accumulation in an Open Economy: A Disequilibrium Approach under the supervision of James Tobin, a noted economist who would later receive the Nobel Memorial Prize. As a teaching assistant, Yellen was so meticulous in taking notes during Tobin's macroeconomics class that they ended up as the unofficial textbook, circulated among generations of graduate students, and known as the "Yellen Notes." Her former professor Joseph Stiglitz, another Nobel Prize in Economics laureate, has called her one of his brightest and most memorable students. She later described Yale professors Tobin and William Brainard as "lifelong mentors," who provided the main intellectual foundation for her views on the economy. Yellen was the only woman among the two dozen economists who earned their doctorates from Yale in 1971.

Academic career

After receiving her Ph.D, Yellen obtained the position of assistant professor of economics at Harvard University, where she taught from 1971 to 1976. At that time, she was one of only two women faculty on Harvard's economics department, the other woman was Rachel McCulloch; the two struck up a close friendship and went on to write several academic papers together. In 1977, Yellen took a job within the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors after failing to win tenure at Harvard; she was recruited as a staff economist for the Board of Governors by Edwin M. Truman, who had known her from Yale. Truman was a junior professor and heard Yellen's oral exam, and then about to take over the Fed's Division of International Finance. She was assigned to research international monetary reform.

While at the Fed, she met her husband, economist George Akerlof, in the bank's cafeteria; they wed in 1978, less than a year later. By the time of their marriage, Akerlof had already accepted a teaching position at the London School of Economics (LSE). Yellen left her post at the Fed to accompany him and was given a tenure-track lectureship by LSE. They remained in the United Kingdom for two years, then returned to the United States.

In 1980, Yellen joined the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley, where she taught at Haas School of Business to conduct macroeconomics research and teach undergraduate and MBA students for more than two decades. She earned the Haas School's outstanding teaching award twice, in 1985 and 1988. Prof. Yellen was just the second woman at Berkeley-Haas to earn tenure in 1982, as well as the title of full professor in 1985. She was named the Bernard T. Rocca, Jr. Professor of International Business and Trade in 1992.

From 1994 to 1999, Yellen took leave of absence from Berkeley going to the public service. After returning to academia, she resumed her teaching assignment at Haas and received a joint appointment with Berkeley's Department of Economics. She became the Eugene E. and Catherine M. Trefethen Professor of Business and Professor of Economics in 1999, and served as an active faculty member at the university until her appointment as president & chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco in 2004. Yellen was awarded the title of Professor Emeritus at UC Berkeley in 2006.

Throughout her career, Yellen served as an adviser to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Brookings Panel on Economic Activity, and the National Science Foundation’s Panel in Economics. She was also a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research from 1999 to 2010.

Contributions to economics

Yellen's academic career largely focused on the analysis of the mechanisms of unemployment and labor markets, monetary and fiscal policies, and international trade. She has written a few widely cited papers, often collaborating with her husband, Professor George Akerlof, on research.

Efficiency wage models

Since 1980s, Yellen with Akerlof address what's known in the economics literature as "efficiency wage theory" – the idea that paying people more than the market wage does, in fact, increase their productivity. Their 1990 paper, entitled "The Fair-Wage Effort Hypothesis and Unemployment," christen "the fair wage-effort hypothesis," considered by economists a significant contribution to the topic: "is a precursor to the efficiency wage literature", "It had an influence, although the work on efficiency wage theory has had a bigger influence." Akerlof and Yellen introduced the gift-exchange game, a model which argued that workers who receive less than what they perceive to be a fair wage will purposely work less hard as a way to take revenge on their employer.

Reproductive technology shock

Another important work, "An Analysis of Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing in the United States" co-written with Akerlof and Michael Katz and published in 1996, aims to explain why out of wedlock births had grown considerably in previous decades in the United States. ..... At the same time, this transformation encouraged biological fathers to reject not only the notion of an obligation to marry the mother but also the idea of a paternal obligation.

Federal Reserve (1994–1997)

On April 22, 1994, President Bill Clinton announced his intention to nominate Yellen as a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, alongside Alan Blinder, who has been designated as vice chairman, the first Democratic appointees to the Board since 1980; with the announcement, president praised her as "one of the most prominent economists of her generation on the intersection of macroeconomics and labor markets." However, President Clinton did not play a direct role in the selection process, delegating most of the responsibility to NEC Director Robert Rubin, Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen and CEA Chair Laura Tyson, who was a colleague of Yellen's at Berkeley. The group settled on her candidacy after an exhaustive search that at one point included nearly 50 names. On July 22, 1994, at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee, Yellen said that Fed policies should keep the economy growing as much as possible without accelerating inflation but avoid to take a clear position on the prospect of further increases in interest rates. Senate panel approved her nomination, without much of Republican opposition, by a vote of 18 to 1. The only dissenting vote came from Senator Lauch Faircloth (R-NC), who had told that her concerns should be limited to "inflation, inflation and inflation". Nomination was confirmed in the United States Senate by a vote of 94–6. On August 12, 1994, Yellen assume the seat vacated by Republican Wayne Angell been appointed to a full 14-year term. She became the fourth woman installed governor, serving alongside Susan M. Phillips, the first time that two women have sat on the Federal Reserve Board.

In July 1996, the Federal Reserve under Chairman Alan Greenspan, resisted pressure to raise interest rates as unemployment declined. But Yellen marshaled academic research to dissuade Greenspan from committing the Fed to a zero inflation policy and demonstrate that the central bank should seek to moderate inflation rather than eliminate it. The study showed that a little inflation rate around the 2 percent range actually was better basis to minimize unemployment and increase economic growth than the goal of zero.

On February 17, 1997, Yellen left the Federal Reserve to become chair of the Council of Economic Advisers.

Council of Economic Advisers (1997–1999)

Janet Yellen official CEA portrait
Official portrait as CEA Chair, circa 1997

On December 20, 1996, Yellen joined the Clinton administration as chair of President Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), replacing Joseph Stiglitz in office. She was confirmed unanimously by the Senate, on February 13, 1997, the second woman to hold the job, following Laura Tyson. While at the CEA, she also chaired the Economic Policy Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development from 1997 to 1999.

During her time with the Council of Economic Advisers, Yellen oversaw a landmark report "Explaining Trends in the Gender Wage Gap" focused on the gender pay divide in June 1998. Within this study, the Council analyzed data from 1969 to 1996 to determine the cause for women to earn substantially less than men. By observing trends attributable to issues like occupation/industry as well as familial status, it was determined that while the Equal Pay Act of 1963 was a step forward, there was no explanation as to why there was a 25 percent difference between average pay for women and men – an improvement from the 40 percent gap two decades earlier. It was concluded that this gap had no correlation with differences in productivity and, as such, was the repercussions of discrimination within the workforce.

In June 1999, Yellen announced that she stepping down from the CEA for personal reasons and would return to teaching at UC Berkeley. It was reported that President Clinton asked her to take over from Alice Rivlin, the central bank's vice chairwoman, an offer she turned down.

Return to the Federal Reserve (2004–2018)

Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

On June 14, 2004, Yellen was appointed president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, following Robert T. Parry; she was the first woman to hold this position. She was a voting member of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) on a rotating basis once every three years. During her time at the San Francisco Fed, the largest of the 12 Federal Reserve Banks in terms of population and economic output, she spoke publicly and in meetings of the Fed's monetary policy committee, regarding her concerns about the potential consequences of the boom in housing prices. She also sounded alarms with Washington colleagues about banks' heavy concentration in risky construction and home-development loans. However, Yellen did not lead the San Francisco Fed to "move to check [the] increasingly indiscriminate lending" of Countrywide Financial, the largest lender in the U.S. On June 5, 2009, Yellen said that Federal Reserve should consider raising interest rates earlier to prevent another housing bubble. She argued that higher short-term interest rates probably went against the expansion of a bubble in certain circumstances, like restrain the demand for housing and high-risk mortgages.

In July 2009, Yellen was mentioned as a potential successor to Chairman Ben Bernanke when his term set to expire, before he was re-nominated for a second four-year term. On October 4, 2010, she left San Francisco Fed to take appointment as vice chair of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors.

Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve

Janet yellen swearing in 2010
Yellen takes the oath of office administered by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke in the Eccles Building, October 4, 2010

On April 28, 2010, President Barack Obama nominated Yellen to succeed Donald Kohn as vice chair of the Federal Reserve. In July, the Senate Banking Committee voted 17–6 to confirm her, though the top Republican on the panel, Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, voted no, saying he believed Yellen had an "inflationary bias". At the same time, on the heels of related testimony by Fed Chairman Bernanke, FOMC voting member James B. Bullard of the St. Louis Fed stated that the U.S. economy was "at risk of becoming 'enmeshed in a Japanese-style deflationary outcome within the next several years.'"

Bullard's statement was interpreted as a possible shift within the FOMC balance between inflation hawks and doves. Yellen's pending confirmation, along with those of Peter Diamond and Sarah Bloom Raskin to fill vacancies, was seen as possibly furthering such a shift in the FOMC. All three nominations were seen as "on track to be confirmed by the Senate".

On September 29, 2010, Yellen, alongside Raskin, confirmed by the Senate on a voice vote, to be both a member of the board of governors, and vice chairman of the Federal Reserve System. On October 4, the pair were sworn in as fed governors, while Yellen also took the oath of office as vice chair of the board for a four-year term. Simultaneously, she began a 14-year term as a member of the Federal Reserve Board, filling a vacant seat last held by Mark W. Olson. Yellen was the second woman to hold the No. 2 post at the Fed, after Alice Rivlin, who had that role from 1996 to 1999.

Yellen as vice chair, by contrast with her predecessors, has acted more as an independent force within the institution. She has trying to persuade Bernanke and the rest of the committee to adopt her preferred course for monetary policy, advocating more aggressive steps to pump money into the economy to bring down unemployment. In January 2012, the Fed announced its own inflation target of two percent a year, after a long campaign by Bernanke and Yellen, who was an early supporter of inflation targeting in the face of opposition from Chairman Greenspan since 1990s.

Yellen was considered as the front-runner to succeed Bernanke as chair of the Federal Reserve when his second term ceased. The other leading candidate to the post was Lawrence Summers, a former President Clinton's treasury secretary and former director of President Obama's National Economic Council. During the race, Summers has come under fire for his support for deregulating parts of the banking sector while he served in the Clinton administration, he also sparked controversy for his comments on women's aptitude in math and science at the time of Harvard presidency in 2005. In July 2013, Senate Democrats were circulating a letter that has been signed by roughly a third of the 54 Democratic and allied senators, largely represent the liberal wing of the Senate Democratic Caucus, urging President Obama to appoint Yellen as chairwoman of the central bank. In addition, more than 500 professional economists from more than 200 colleges and universities across the United States signed an open letter in support of her candidacy for Fed chair and sent it to the White House. On September 15, 2013, after weeks of opposition to his potential nomination, Summers withdrew his name from consideration for the position.

Chair of the Federal Reserve

Janet Yellen official Federal Reserve portrait
Official portrait as Federal Reserve Chair, 2015
VCY CG CB CV cent grp 121613 0517 02844 (13896600480)
From left to right: Janet Yellen, Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke, and Paul Volcker, May 1, 2014.
Chair Yellen and IMF Managing Director Lagarde 140702 (cropped)
Yellen in conversation with IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, July 2, 2014

On October 9, 2013, Yellen was officially nominated to replace Bernanke as chair of the Federal Reserve, the first vice chair to be elevated to that post; via announcement, President Obama called her "one of the nation’s foremost economists and policymakers" who was "exceptionally well-qualified for this role". During the nomination hearings held on November 14, 2013, Yellen defended the more than $3 trillion in stimulus funds that the central bank had been injecting into the U.S. economy. She also said that it is important for the Fed to try to detect asset bubbles, and that if she saw one, she would work to address it.

On December 20, 2013, the U.S. Senate voted 59–34 for cloture on Yellen's nomination. On January 6, 2014, she was confirmed as chair of the Federal Reserve by a vote of 56–26, the narrowest margin ever for the position. Aside from being a trailblazer as the first woman to lead the U.S. central bank, or any major central bank, Yellen was also the first Democrat to hold the job since Paul Volcker became chairman in 1979 (via President Jimmy Carter). She's notable also for being arguably the most liberal Fed leader since Marriner S. Eccles, who was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression. Until her appointment, there has been only one female head of the central bank in the history of the G8 countries – Russia's Elvira Nabiullina. After being unanimously elected by the Federal Open Market Committee as its chair on January 30, 2014, she took office on February 3, 2014. In her 2014 semiannual testimony on monetary policy, Yellen said that while real estate, equities, and corporate bond prices "have risen appreciably and valuation metrics have increased", they were "generally in line with historical norms"; Yellen noted some concerns about valuations of "lower-rated corporate debt" (i.e., junk bonds), and noted that she and the Fed were monitoring trends, but did not believe that a so-called "everything bubble" was forming.

With Yellen as chair, the Federal Reserve increased its key interest rate on December 16, 2015. This was the first time the key interest rate was increased since 2006. That move was largely expected, because extraordinarily low interest rates for an extremely long time may contribute to financial instability and pose a threat to the economy. It was considered a departure from previous controversial Fed policy known as the Greenspan put. During her tenure, the Fed has gradually raised rates four additional times, leaving its key rate in a still-low range of 1.25 percent to 1.5 percent – well below historical standards. However, Fed policymakers have the ability to cut rates to stimulate growth in case the economy slows.

After the 2016 presidential election, Yellen gave a strong defense of the Dodd–Frank Act at her Joint Economic Committee testimony, standing in opposition to the incoming President Donald Trump's plans to review the landmark legislation. She argued that it would be inappropriate to weaken or repeal the law designed to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis.

Trump considered re-nominating Yellen for another term, but instead picked Fed Governor Jerome Powell, a Republican, to run the Federal Reserve once her term ended on February 3, 2018. The last Fed chairman eligible for reappointment but not to be re-nominated by a successor presidential administration was Arthur Burns in 1978. After Trump's decision, Yellen announced resignation at the end of her term as chair. She was the first Fed chair in nearly 40 years to not receive a second term.

On February 2, 2018, her last day in office, Chair Yellen enforced unprecedented sanctions on Wells Fargo, the third largest U.S. bank, with a consent order that restricted the firm from future growth until the organization fixed its internal problems. The move came in response to a string of "widespread consumer abuses and compliance breakdowns" at the company, including a fake accounts scandal. It marked the first time the Federal Reserve has imposed a cap on the entire assets of a financial institution.

Yellen has been called one of the most successful chairs of the Federal Reserve System from the perspective of the labor markets. During her term, the unemployment rate dropped from 6.7 percent to 4.1 percent, the lowest in 17 years. It marked the first time the economy had added jobs throughout every month of any Fed's chair tenure. Yellen completed her time at the Fed with the lowest final unemployment rate of any Fed chair since William McChesney Martin in 1970. Under her leadership, the U.S. unemployment rate fell more than during any other chair's term in the post-World War II era, declining 2.6 percentage points.

Inflation remained below the Fed's annual two percent target, which led to suggestions that the Federal Reserve could have done more to bolster the economy without the risk of price increases.

Yellen holds a unique place in Federal Reserve history. In addition to being the first woman to lead the institution, she was also the first person ever to have served at the nation's central bank system with stints as a Fed Reserve chair (from 2014 to 2018), vice chair (from 2010 to 2014), president of the regional Federal Reserve Bank (at the San Francisco Fed, from 2004 to 2010), Fed governor (from 1994 to 1997), as well as Fed staff economist (from 1977 to 1978).

After the Federal Reserve (2018–2020)

Yellen farewell (26153917598)
Yellen delivers her farewell speech to Federal Reserve staff, February 1, 2018

On February 2, 2018, the Brookings Institution announced that Yellen would be joining the think tank as a distinguished fellow in residence with the Economic Studies program, effective February 5, 2018. She's been affiliated with the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at Brookings. Within the institution, she has been providing expertise and commentary on a range of economic issues, offering her perspective and analysis at Brookings panels, congressional testimony, lectures across the United States and abroad, and regularly serving as a commentator in the media. From November 2020, Yellen was on a leave from position since she was selected as the nominee to serve as Treasury secretary.

On June 27, 2017, Yellen stated that she did not expect another financial crisis "in our lifetime", explaining that this assumption can be made due to her belief that banks are "very much stronger" as a result of Federal Reserve oversight. However, on December 10, 2018, in conversation with Paul Krugman at the City University of New York, she warned of the possibility of another financial crisis by citing "gigantic holes in the system" after her departure from the Federal Reserve.

On February 25, 2019, Yellen criticized President Trump's economic policies. When asked if she believed Trump has "a grasp of economic policy", Yellen said "No, I do not." In an interview with Marketplace, Yellen explained that she doubts that Trump could articulate the Federal Reserve's explicit goals of "maximum employment and price stability". Yellen pointed out Trump's claims that the Federal Reserve's goals involve trade, which she explains to be objectively false. This interview was a change in tone for Yellen, who traditionally handled her differences with Trump in a neutral manner.

On July 17, 2020, at the hearing of the United States House Select Oversight Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis that was set up by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, former Fed Chairs Bernanke and Yellen testified to the United States Congress about the economic policy response to the negative impact of the coronavirus pandemic. They urged lawmakers to act aggressively with fiscal stimulus in three areas: extending the supplementary unemployment payments; providing additional financial assistance to hard-hit states and local governments; and investing in the medical response to the pandemic. She also expressed this commitment to stimulus in an op-ed for The New York Times with Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

On August 13, 2020, it was reported that Yellen was among a handful of economists who briefed former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, and his chosen running mate Sen. Kamala Harris on economic issues, but she did not officially join the presidential campaign. The meeting made headlines for being one of the first times the Biden campaign announced who it was turning to for economic expertise. But few at the time predicted Yellen for any of the president's Cabinet posts.

Between 2018 and 2020, Yellen had received over $7 million in speaking fees from financial companies such as Barclays, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and the hedge fund Citadel after leaving the Federal Reserve. With her return to government, she pledged to get official permission from the Office of Government Ethics to participate in substantive issues involving such firms to avoid any conflict of interest.

Secretary of the Treasury (2021–present)

Nomination and confirmation

President Joe Biden meets with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris receive an economic briefing from Treasury Secretary Yellen in the Oval Office, January 29, 2021

Following the 2020 presidential election, Yellen was routinely mentioned as a possible secretary of the treasury in the incoming Biden administration. She edged out other top contenders, in order to obtain the position, including Fed Board Gov. Lael Brainard and Roger W. Ferguson Jr., a former vice chairman at the central bank.

On November 30, 2020, then President-elect Biden announced he would nominate Yellen as Treasury Secretary in his Cabinet, and lauded her as "one of the most important economic thinkers of our time" who "spent her career focused on employment and the dignity of work." Despite being a highly respected figure across the political spectrum, expected to win confirmation easily, she was considered as an unusual pick for the position because of her lack of experience in political maneuvering. Unlike her predecessors, she is viewed more as an academic economist than a traditional politician accustomed to lawmaker horse-trading and dealmaking, qualities that could be crucial to achieve the goals of Biden's economic agenda in a deeply partisan Congress. All living former U.S. treasury secretaries from George Shultz to Jack Lew endorsed Yellen to the position in a bipartisan letter calling on the Senate to swiftly confirm her.

The Senate Finance Committee unanimously approved Yellen's candidature by a 26–0 vote on January 22, 2021. The full U.S. Senate confirmed her nomination with a vote of 84–15 (with one abstention, Marco Rubio, R-FL) on January 25, 2021. With her oath of office administered by Vice President Harris the next day, Yellen became the first female Secretary of the Treasury, and the first person in American history to lead the three most powerful economic bodies in the federal government of the United States: the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve, and the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

Only two other women within the G7 nations – France's Christine Lagarde and Canada's Chrystia Freeland – have held positions analogous to Yellen's as Treasury Secretary.


Proposed international tax reform

Janet Yellen and Olaf Scholz prepared for 2021 G20 Finance Minister's Meeting (3)
Yellen meeting with German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, July 2, 2021

In April 2021, Yellen proposed a global minimum corporate tax rate, to prevent profit shifting used by multinational companies for purposes of tax avoidance. On June 5, 2021, finance ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) – the major advanced economies – reached a historic agreement to reform the global tax system, agreeing to back a minimum global corporate tax rate of at least 15%; French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire calling it "a starting point" that could be increased in the future. On June 10, 2021, Treasury Secretary Yellen joined with four foreign counterparts in penning an op-ed for The Washington Post that described the new accord as "a historic opportunity to end the race to the bottom in corporate taxation, restoring government resources at a time when they are most needed". On July 1, 2021, U.S.-backed negotiations within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to create wider global tax parity won support from a group of 130 nations, representing more than 90 percent of global GDP, establishing a new framework for international tax reform. On July 10, 2021, financial leaders from the G20 countries came to an agreement on plans to put an end to global tax havens and force multinational corporations to pay an appropriate share of tax wherever they operate and create a "more stable and fairer international tax architecture".

On October 8, 2021, more than 130 countries, including several low-tax jurisdictions that had resisted the pact, enforced through OECD a landmark agreement to set a global minimum tax rate of 15% starting in 2023 for companies around the world. It said the deal could bring in an extra $150 billion in tax revenues per year. However, implementation of the treaty will need to be ratified via a two-thirds majority in the evenly divided U.S. Senate, as well as needing to pass in domestic legislation in each of the signed countries.

Debt ceiling crisis

On July 23, 2021, Yellen sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other congressional leaders, urged lawmakers to increase or suspend the nation's debt limit as soon as possible before it hit its statutory limit on August 1, and government would be unable to pay its bills. She warned Congress that failure to meet those obligations would cause "irreparable harm" to the U.S. economy, and Treasury Department would begin taking “extraordinary measures” to prevent the United States from a government shutdown or even a debt default.

On September 19, 2021, Yellen, in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, again called for an increase in the debt ceiling otherwise, sometime in October, Treasury would exhaust its cash reserves which would trigger a financial crisis. After Congress adopted a short-term debt-ceiling bill to raise the country's borrowing into early December, Yellen said that it was imperative that lawmakers act with responsibility and provide longer-term certainty for government solvency. On November 1, 2021, Yellen expressed willingness to consider solutions to the debt crisis without GOP support if necessary, using a budget procedure of reconciliation as a viable alternative.

On December 16, 2021, President Biden signed a debt ceiling increase into law, preventing a U.S. default, a day after the Treasury's previously estimated deadline to address the issue. Congressional legislation expected to allow the government to cover its financial obligations beyond the 2022 midterm elections was passed in a nearly party-line vote.

Digital Assets Regulation

On April 7, 2022, at American University's Kogod School of Business Center for Innovation, Yellen addressed for the first time growing impact of digital assets on the American economy. Yellen outlined policy objectives and lessons that apply to the navigation of emerging technologies, which includes "first, U.S. financial system benefits from responsible innovation; second, it's often society's vulnerable who suffer most in economic crisis when regulation is not moving at the same pace as innovation; third, regulation should focus on activities and risk and activities, not technology; fourth, sovereign money is the core of a functioning financial system; fifth, it'll take thoughtful public and private dialogue between various groups to move forward."

Yellen also announced possible plans for a government version of a stablecoin; the administration is studying the possibility of issuing a central bank digital currency (CBDC), or digital dollar, while taking into consideration the impact of a CBDC on monetary policy, national security and international trade, as well as its utility for consumers. Solving such problems are "engineering challenge that would require years of development, not months," she said.

Comments on Roe v. Wade overturning

..... Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) asked what reversing the landmark ruling would mean economically for the country; Yellen responded, "I believe that eliminating the right of women to make decisions about when and whether to have children would have very damaging effects on the economy and would set women back decades." .....

Internal Revenue Service reforms

After the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, Yellen directed the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to use $80 billion additional IRS funding to clearing backlogs, improve taxpayer services, update technology and hire thousands of new employees.

Economic philosophy

Yellen is widely considered to be a "dove" on monetary policy (i.e., more concerned with unemployment than with inflation) and as such generally favoring lower, rather than higher, Federal Reserve interest rates. However, on fiscal policy, publications often referred to her as "somewhat" of a deficit hawk. Prior to the COVID-19 recession, she expressed concern about the U.S. fiscal path, especially on U.S. debt; in 2018, Yellen said, "If I had a magic wand, I would raise taxes and cut retirement spending"; the following year, she again suggested that she favored both raising revenue and making changes to the Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security programs to control spending. In September 2021, at a House Financial Services Committee hearing, Yellen lends support to effort for complete removal of the debt ceiling, arguing that the borrowing cap is "very destructive" and poses unnecessary threat to the American economy.

She has supported tighter financial regulation to reduce systemic risks arising from vulnerabilities in the financial system. As chair of the Group of Thirty Working Group on Climate Change and Finance, she addressed climate risks, supporting a phase-in carbon pricing to accelerate a shift to net zero carbon emissions.

Yellen is a Keynesian economist and has been described as a "Keynesian to her fingertips"; during the Great Recession, she "warned against an over-hasty removal of stimulus"; "insisted that the Fed pay as much attention to unemployment as to inflation"; and "believes the state has a duty to tackle poverty and inequality". In April 1999, Yellen presented a speech at a reunion of the Yale graduate economics department that was titled "Yale Economics in Washington," and described her views on Keynesian economics in policymaking. She claimed that while most economists "appreciate the role of markets and incentives," Yalies more often than others can see when they aren't working properly and greater concern for policies to remedy them, advising policy makers to have the knowledge and ability to improve macroeconomic outcomes. When her appointment as treasury secretary was announced in December 2020, Yellen was viewed by Wall Street "as a Treasury secretary who will push hard for expansionary policies aimed at boosting growth, profits and share prices", although the ability of Yellen to push through her preferred fiscal policies was seen as likely to be constrained by congressional gridlock.

Honors and awards

Yellen has received numerous honors in recognition of her career in academia and politics. These include:


Chancellor, visitor, governor, rector, and fellowships
Location Date Organization Position
 New York 1986–1987 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Guggenheim Fellowship
 Connecticut 2000–2006 Yale Corporation Alumni Fellow
 California 2003–2004 Western Economic Association International President
 Tennessee 2004–2005 American Economic Association Vice President
 California 2013–present University of California, Berkeley Berkeley Fellow
 Tennessee 2020–2021 American Economic Association President
Honorary degrees
Location Date School Degree Gave Commencement Address
 Rhode Island May 25, 1998 Brown University Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) Yes
 New York May 27, 2000 Bard College Doctor of Humane Letters (DHL) No
 New York May 21, 2014 New York University Doctor of Commercial Science (DCSc) Yes
 England May 15, 2015 London School of Economics Doctor of Science (DSc) No
 Connecticut May 15, 2015 Yale University Doctor of Social Science (DSSc) No
 England November 19, 2015 University of Warwick Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) No
 Maryland December 19, 2016 University of Baltimore Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) Yes
 Israel June 5, 2019 Tel Aviv University Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) No
 Michigan December 15, 2019 University of Michigan Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) No
 Pennsylvania May 17, 2021 University of Pennsylvania Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) No

Memberships and fellowships

Location Date Organization Position
 Massachusetts 1999–2010 National Bureau of Economic Research Research Associate (Monetary Economics)
 Massachusetts 2001–present American Academy of Arts and Sciences Member
 New York 2002–2010 Economists for Peace and Security Trustee
 New York 2005–present Council on Foreign Relations Member
 District of Columbia 2009–present Group of Thirty Senior Member
 Tennessee 2012–present American Economic Association Distinguished Fellow
 Connecticut 2014–present Econometric Society Fellow
 District of Columbia 2015–present National Association for Business Economics NABE Fellow
 England 2016–present British Academy Honorary Fellow


Location Date Organisation Award
 Connecticut May 26, 1997 Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Wilbur Cross Medal
 District of Columbia October 11, 2010 National Association for Business Economics Adam Smith Award
 New York January 22, 2015 Hobart and William Smith Colleges Elizabeth Blackwell Award
 Massachusetts May 27, 2016 Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Radcliffe Medal
 Rhode Island May 5, 2017 Brown University The President's Medal
 Illinois November 7, 2017 Institute of Government and Public Affairs The Paul H. Douglas Award for Ethics in Government
 California February 2, 2019 University of California, Santa Cruz The Foundation Medal
 Connecticut March 20, 2019 Chief Executive Leadership Institute The Legend in Leadership Award
 Massachusetts September 21, 2019 Brandeis International Business School Dean's Medal
 Missouri October 10, 2019 Truman Library Institute Truman Medal for Economic Policy

Other recognition

  • In March 2018, The Janet L. Yellen professorship was endowed by Charles D. Ellis at the Yale School of Management, named in honor of Yellen. Professor Andrew Metrick has been invested as the inaugural Janet L. Yellen Professor of Finance and Management at the School.
  • In December 2018, Federal Reserve Board presented an annual Janet L. Yellen Award for Excellence in Community Development to recognize the exemplary work of Federal Reserve System staff, and intended as honor of former chair Yellen's commitment to public service. Ariel Cisneros of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, has been named the first recipient of the newly created Award.

Personal life

Yellen is married to George Akerlof, an economist who is a university professor at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University and Koshland Professor of Economics Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, as well as 2001 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences laureate. Yellen and Akerlof first crossed paths at the Fed in the fall of 1977 and wedded in June 1978, less than a year after meeting. They have one child: economist Robert Akerlof (b. 1981) graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor of arts in economics and mathematics from Yale College in 2003, and received a PhD in economics from Harvard University in 2009, where he was a presidential scholar. Robert is currently an associate professor of economics at the University of Warwick.

Yellen and Akerlof have often collaborated on research, including topics such as poverty, unemployment and a paper on the costs of out-of-wedlock childbearing. One of their most talked-about papers at Berkeley, on why lower wages do not always lead to higher employment, came from the personal experience of hiring a nanny for the first time. Yellen says Akerlof has been her biggest intellectual influence. Both frequently state that their lone disagreement is that she is a bit more supportive of free trade than he is.

Yellen has an estimated net worth of $20 million, accrued from stock holdings, speaking engagements and various government and academic positions. In February 2021, she divested holdings in corporations including Pfizer, ConocoPhillips and AT&T, among others when appointed to public office at U.S. Treasury.

Yellen has had an expensive collection of postage stamps valued between $15,000 and $50,000 that she inherited from her mother. Despite this, Yellen doesn’t collect them on her own.

In popular culture

"Who's Yellen Now?" is a song by musician Dessa, commissioned by Marketplace, following the joking suggestion by then President-elect Biden that Lin-Manuel Miranda should write a Hamiltonesque musical about Yellen, reflecting the historic nature of her nomination as nation's first female secretary of the Treasury, on December 1, 2020.

On the NBC sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live, Yellen has been parodied by actress Kate McKinnon since 2021.

Selected works

= See also

  • List of female United States Cabinet members
  • List of people who have held multiple United States Cabinet-level positions
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