The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Hansen, Alvin (1887–1975)

  • Richard A. Musgrave
Reference work entry


Alvin Hansen grew up in Viborg, South Dakota, a small rural community with a one-room school house and traditional values. Preferring academic pursuits to farm work, he proceeded to Sioux Falls for his high school education and then to Yankton College for his BA degree. Several years of high school teaching followed, with rapid advancement to principal and superintendent. The financial basis for his graduate work thus laid, Hansen entered the University of Wisconsin in 1914, where John R. Commons and R.T. Ely were to impress him with the importance of data and their institutional setting. In 1919 he moved to Brown University as assistant professor. There he completed his dissertation, later published as Cycles of Prosperity and Depression (1921). He then accepted a position at the University of Minnesota, where he remained for nearly 20 years. His major works during the 1920s included a solid Principles text, co-authored with F.B. Garver (1928), and an historical study of Business Cycle Theory (1927). Ranging from Malthus to Spiethoff and Hawtrey, stress was on structural shifts in investment rather than on monetary factors, and special attention was given to the interaction of short cycles with longer waves of economic development.


American Economic Association Bretton Woods system Commons, J. R. Council of economic advisers Ely, R. T. Fiscal expansion Full employment Great depression Hansen, A. International monetary fund Keynesianism Multiplier–accelerator interaction Neoclassical synthesis Saving and investment Stabilization Stagnation 

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard A. Musgrave
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  1. 1.