Janet Yellen: First woman Chair of US Federal Reserve

Janet Yellen became the new chair of the US Federal Reserve on 31 January 2014.

Yellen, 67, is the first woman to head the US Federal Reserve in its 100 year history, and one of the few to lead a central bank of a major economy.

Janet Yellen has extensive policymaking experience. Before her appointment as Federal Reserve Vice Chair in 2010, Yellen took part in US monetary policymaking as President of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank, and as a governor on the Federal Reserve board. She also chaired president Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers from 1997 to 1999.

A widely respected economist with a PhD from Yale, Yellen has taught economics at the University of California, Berkeley, Harvard University and the London School of Economics (LSE). She has published research on topics as disparate as youth gangs, single mothers, optimal monetary policy, wage and price rigidity, and trade.

She is married to, and has co-authored a number of papers with, Nobel Prize-winning economist George Akerlof, whom she met in 1977 when they were both economists at the Federal Reserve board. They married the following June and left the Federal Reserve to teach at LSE. Their only child, now a university economics professor, knew he wanted to go into economics by the time he was 13.

Janet Yellen is seen as a “dove” on monetary policy, favouring strategies that bring down unemployment even at the risk of driving inflation higher. “When the goals conflict and it comes to calling for tough trade-offs, to me, a wise and humane policy is occasionally to let inflation rise even when inflation is running above target,” Yellen said in 1995.

Photo: Bloomberg