Aug. 15, 2002
Vol. 21 No. 19

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    Bowman Anderson, 1908–2002

    Jean Bowman Anderson, a leading University economist who studied the economic value of education, who wrote one of the most widely used economics textbooks, and who, as a woman, was a pioneer in an overwhelmingly male discipline, died Monday, June 24, at her home in Hyde Park. She was 93.

    Bowman is best known for her work in applying human capital theory to the study of education. “She was one of the leaders in studying the impact of education on occupation, earnings and unemployment,” said Nobel laureate Gary Becker, University Professor in Economics and Sociology.

    “Jean was an extraordinary person who might well have been one of the University’s Nobel Prize winners had she not chosen a somewhat different career path,” said Robert Myers, a former student of Bowman’s who is an economist and educational researcher in Mexico City.

    Bowman, an empirical economist, had a remarkably varied career. She wrote six books and more than 75 articles and studied a wide-range of topics from entrepreneurship to migration to contrasting ways in which Japanese and U.S. corporations organized themselves.

    In the 1950s, she produced groundbreaking work on income distribution. In the early 1960s, Bowman analyzed the economics of poverty-stricken Eastern Kentucky (at the time, one of the nation’s poorest areas). Later, much of her research focused on economies outside the United States; she completed books based on research in the Ivory Coast and Japan.

    Bowman also is widely known for co-authoring the basic economics textbook Economic Analysis and Public Policy (commonly known as “Bowman and Bach”), the most popular economics textbook at American universities during the 1940s and 1950s. It also was notably the first book to deal with the concept of oligopoly.

    “She was a feminist by virtue of what she did and achieved,” said Becker, a colleague of Bowman’s during the 1960s and 1970s. Though Bowman was a rarity as a female economist, Becker said, “she never wanted to be identified as a female economist. She wanted to be known as just an economist. She believed in equal opportunity,” he said, “but she never wanted to get a privilege because she was a woman.”

    Much of her work as an economist was done in the field of economics and education. She held a dual appointment in the Departments of Economics and Education, and she often collaborated with her late husband, C. Arnold Anderson, a sociologist and the longtime director of the University’s Comparative Education Center.

    Born in New York City Oct. 17, 1908, and raised in Newton Center, Mass., Bowman received a B.A. in economics from Vassar College in 1930, an M.A. in economics from Radcliffe College in 1932, and her Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University in 1938.

    In the early 1940s, Bowman became part of what is known as the “Iowa State oleomargarine diaspora.” She was a teacher and researcher at Iowa State College when the president of the university infamously declared that the school’s scientists should support the claim that “butter is better than margarine.” In 1943, Bowman, along with her husband, Theodore Schultz, D. Gale Johnson and others who became leading social scientists, left Iowa State in protest.

    Bowman worked as a price economist for the U.S government and as a visiting lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, before coming to Chicago with her husband, in 1949.

    Because of the University’s strict “nepotism rules,” Bowman was teaching as an Associate Professor in Economics at the University, but was not awarded a faculty appointment until 1958.

    As her interest in education developed, she increasingly collaborated with her husband, who was director of the Center for Comparative Education. In the 1960s, they co-edited Education and Economic Development and co-authored Commentary on Aid Education Programs in Africa.

    She was preceded in death by her husband and is survived by a son, Lloyd Anderson, of Washington, D.C.