Janet Yellen

Janet Yellen Biography.com

Government Official, Economist(1946–)
A leading American economist, Janet Yellen served as vice chairman of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors since 2010 until becoming the first woman to become chair of the board in 2014.


Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1946, Janet Yellen earned a bachelor's degree from Brown University in 1967. She then went to Yale University, where she received her Ph.D. in 1971. After teaching at Harvard University, Yellen worked at the Federal Reserve from 1977 to 1978, and then became a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. From 1997 to 1999, she served on the White House Council of Economic Advisers, and in 2004, she became president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. In 2010, Yellen was selected to serve as vice chair of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. President Barack Obama nominated her to become the board's chairman in October 2013.

Early Life and Education

Economist and Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Louise Yellen was born in Brooklyn, New York, on August 13, 1946. She has become a leading figure in U.S. monetary policy through her many roles at the Federal Reserve, and was named Federal Reserve Chair in 2014. She attended Fort Hamilton High School, where she excelled in many subjects. She also served as editor-in-chief of her school newspaper and became valedictorian of her graduating class in 1963.

Yellen went on to study economics at Brown University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in economics in 1967, before enrolling at Yale University for her doctorate. After completing her Ph.D. in 1971, she spent several years as an assistant professor at Harvard University.

Educator and Economist

Yellen held her first post with the Federal Reserve in the late 1970s, serving as an economist there for a year before returning to academia. From 1978 to 1980, she lived abroad, becoming a lecturer at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She then joined the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley.

Yellen took leave from UC Berkeley in the mid-1990s to serve on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. From 1997 to 1999, she also served on the White House Council of Economic Advisers for President Bill Clinton.

In 2004, Yellen became president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, showing remarkable insight into the country's economic situation as one of the few economists to forecast the housing crisis of 2008. In 2010, she became vice chair of the Federal Reserve. Yellen has been an outspoken advocate for using the powers of the Federal Reserve to reduce unemployment, and has seemed more willing than other economists to risk slightly higher inflation to accomplish this goal.

Federal Reserve Chair

In October 2013, President Barack Obama nominated Yellen as chair of the Federal Reserve. She would replace outgoing chair Ben Bernanke and be the first woman to serve in this capacity, if she received congressional approval. She would also become the first Democrat to hold the post in nearly three decades.

At a White House press conference, President Obama praised Yellen's "good judgement" and said that she "knows how to build consensus." Considering the challenging political environment in Washington, he expressed his confidence in Yellen's ability to get things done. "She's a proved leader and she's tough—not just because she's from Brooklyn," the president said.

Yellen pledged to "meet the great responsibilities that Congress has entrusted to the Federal Reserve—to promote maximum employment, stable prices, and a strong and stable financial system," if she was confirmed. Following much speculation, Yellen was confirmed to succeed Ben Bernanke as Chair of the Federal Reserve Board on January 6, 2014, with a start date of February 1. The Senate voted 56-26 for the Obama endorsed economist to take on the head role, and with the title she became the first woman in history to lead the Federal Reserve Board.

Over her lengthy career, Yellen has penned numerous papers and publications, including some co-authored with her husband, Nobel Prize-winning economist and UC Berkeley professor George Akerlof. She has also received numerous accolades for her contributions to the field of economics. She served as a Guggenheim Fellow in the mid-1980s, and received the Wilbur Lucius Cross Medal from Yale University in 1997.

Personal Life

Yellen met husband George Akerlof in the 1970s, when they were both working at the Federal Reserve. The couple has one grown son, Robert Akerlof.

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