Ben Bernanke Biography

Economist (1953–)
Economist Ben Bernanke replaced Alan Greenspan as chairman of the Federal Reserve System in 2006. In that role, Bernanke helped the United States weather the 2008 economic crisis.


Economist Ben Bernanke was born on December 13, 1953. He graduated from Harvard University in 1975. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Bernanke earned a Ph.D. in 1979. He then became an economics professor at Stanford University and later at Princeton University. He joined the Federal Reserve System in 2002, and in 2006 he became chairman, replacing Alan Greenspan. During the economic meltdown of 2008, Bernanke worked to stabilize the banking industry. He was appointed to a second term as chair of the Federal Reserve in 2010, completing his service in 2014.

Early Life and Education

Born on December 13, 1953, in Augusta, Georgia, Ben Shalom Bernanke has been one of the most influential figures in American economic policy. He grew up in Dillon, South Carolina, where his father worked as a pharmacist. A bright child, Bernanke won a state spelling bee at the age of 11.

According to The New York Times, Bernanke earned the highest SAT scores in South Carolina for the year he sought college admission. He was accepted at Harvard University where he earned a bachelor's degree with honors in economics in 1975. Bernanke continued his studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where received his Ph.D. in economics in 1979.

Professor and Economist

After completing his doctorate, Bernanke moved west to Stanford University, where he worked as an economics professor for six years before accepting a position with Princeton University's department of economics. In addition to teaching classes, Bernanke eventually served as the department's chair and also became involved with the Federal Reserve in an advisory capacity. 

In 2002, Bernanke left academia for a post with the Federal Reserve after being nominated for the position by President George W. Bush. Three years later, Bush tapped Bernanke to serve as the chairman of his Council of Economic Advisers, but shortly thereafter Bernanke would move into an even more prestigious position.

Chairman of the Federal Reserve

In October 2005, Ben Bernanke was nominated to replace Alan Greenspan as chairman of the Federal Reserve. He received strong support for his nomination from many leading politicians, including Senators John Kerry and Charles Schumer, and in January 2006 began his first term.

As chairman, Bernanke helped guide monetary policy during a period of economic trouble in the United States. He sought solutions to aid failing financial institutions in 2008, including supporting the takeover of Bear Stearns by JPMorgan Chase and the $85 billion bailout of A.I.G.

In 2010, Bernanke was nominated for a second term by President Barack Obama. This time around, however, he found himself under scrutiny for his actions before the 2008 financial crisis. Despite some opposition, Bernanke was ultimately confirmed for his second and final term. He left the post in January 2014 and was succeeded by Janet Yellen, the Federal Reserve's vice chair.

Other Endeavors 

Since leaving the Federal Reserve, Bernanke has been a member of the Montgomery Township Board of Education and is a distinguished fellow in residence with the economic studies program at the Brookings Institute. In 2015 he published The Courage to Act, a memoir of his experiences with the Federal Reserve.

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