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Anna Koutsoyiannis (1932-1986)

by Ronald G. Bodkin, May 26, 1999

Extract from the Biographical Dictionary of Women economists. Editors Robert Dimand and Evelyn Forget. Posted here with the permission of Edward Elgar Publishing.


Anna Koutsoyiannis was born in Athens, Greece, in 1932 and died, prematurely and tragically (of her own volition), in Ottawa, Canada, in September 1986. Left behind to grieve for her were a son Peter, an ex-husband Costas, colleagues at her final affiliation (the Department of Economics of the University of Ottawa), and her many students, with whom she had an excellent rapport.

Anna's career path can be easily traced. After a B.A. at the Athens School of Economics in 1954 (during which she won the Distinguished Student Award), she headed to England and the University of Manchester, where she received the Ph.D. degree in 1962; her last two years at Manchester were divided between her own research and teaching at the Lecturer rank. Returning to Greece, she served as Lecturer at the Graduate School of Business Studies in Athens from 1962 to 1964 and then at the University of Thessaloniki from 1964 through 1968, first as Assistant Professor of Economics and then as Associate Professor (1965-1968). Anna then returned to England, at the University of Lancaster, where she held the rank of Senior Lecturer from 1968 to 1973 and then received a promotion to the rank of Reader in 1974. However, she held this more senior position in Lancaster for only another year, as she moved to the University of Waterloo (as a Full Professor) in 1975, remaining there until 1983. In 1983 she moved to the University of Ottawa as (Full) Professor and departmental Chairperson. Somewhat overwhelmed by the stresses of this demanding job, she decided to step down as departmental chair in 1985, after only two years; thus her final year at the University of Ottawa was as a regular professor in the department.

Anna's gifts as a teacher of economics were considerable. The record shows that, during her eight years at the University of Waterloo, she won the Distinguished Teaching Award for the entire university (in 1978). One of her ex-students (Ms. Ellie Sayadi, whom I interviewed by telephone for this note) describes her as "engaging," "animated," and (especially) "caring." "Professor Koutsoyiannis could make an 8:30 class come to life as no other professor with whom I have ever studied; she was more stimulating at that hour of the morning than the strongest cup of coffee!". Ms. Sayadi noted as well that the texts in Professor Koutsoyiannis' class (generally written by herself) were generally available in paperback, thus sparing strained student book budgets. This could be interpreted as an illustration of her concern for her students, although a cynic might consider that it simply showed an applied price theorist's better awareness of demand elasticities in practice! At the time of her death, Anna was hard at work on an introductory text, which was designed to incorporate her vision of appropriate pedagogy at this level.

Anna's research (which was strong enough to merit her an entry in Marc Blaug's citation-based Who's Who in Economics, Second Edition [1986]) can be summarized briefly. The book on The Leaf Tobacco Market of Greece (1963) is a nice application of econometric techniques of the day, combined with considerable institutional knowledge, to study a challenging problem in agricultural economics, in the tradition of Henry Schultz. "Demand Functions for Tobacco" (1963) is in this same tradition and was presumably a spin-off from the same predoctoral research. Anna's gifts as an expositor of received theories are well illustrated in Theory of Econometrics (1973, 1977), an undergraduate text, written to be accessible to undergraduate students (for example, the theory is developed in terms of summation signs instead of matrix algebra). However, Anna's creativity really blossomed in the field of microeconomic theory and industrial organization. At this point, it will serve to allow Anna to speak for herself:

... In later years, I became increasingly preoccupied with the content of standard microeconomics textbooks, which largely ignore the changed economic conditions of countries of the Western world, dominated as they are by large oligopolistic conglomerates. In Modern Microeconomics [1975, 1979] and Non-Price Decisions [1982], oligopoly is treated as the general case rather than the exception in the contemporary business world. (Koutsoyiannis, in Blaug,1986:476)

The final article published during her lifetime (to the best of my knowledge), "Goals of Oligopolistic Firms" (1984), is a little gem in which Anna takes three possible hypotheses about firm behaviour (profit maximization, sales maximization, or pricing to limit entry of potential oligopolistic competitors) and then subjects them to econometric testing. She finds considerable evidence to suggest that large firms often set prices in the inelastic region of the demand curve, which in turn suggests pricing to limit the entry of possible competitors.

Finally, a word about Anna's reputation among her fellow economists. As noted above, Anna was one of roughly 1275 living and dead economists included in Mark Blaug's Who's Who in Economics (1986); such an inclusion might already be considered a major professional accomplishment. Perhaps the credit due her increases even more when one realizes that there were only (roughly) 32 women economists recognized among the total of roughly 1275 entries.* (These thirty-two women economists, some of whom like Joan Robinson and Rosa Luxembourg are well known to the profession, are listed in the Appendix.) Finally, one can ask how Professor Koutsoyiannis' work has been regarded more than a decade after her death. Although a cursory scan of two recent texts in microtheory and in industrial organization failed to turn up any citations, Marc Lavoie's recent book (1992) on Post Keynesian economics cites Modern Microeconomics four times, according to the index.

*The qualification "roughly" is used advisedly. If I knew the individuals personally, then there was no question about gender (with one exception, discussed below). If not, I had to rely on the given name or other material in the entry, a not always perfect manner of deciding. (Thus names like "Robin" in English or "Claude" in French can refer to either men or women, while the name "Jean" is generally a woman's name in English but a man's name in French. Also, with Oriental names, I was less than perfectly certain. Finally, there is an interesting case of Deirdre (then Donald) McCloskey, who underwent a sex change operation in the early 1990s; how should one classsify him/her? Controversial; but if we believe in individual preference, "female" would appear to be the appropriate classification.

REFERENCES

  1. Blaug, Mark (Ed.), Who's Who in Economics: A Biographical Dictionary of Major Economists, 1700-1986, Second Edition (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1986).
  2. Koutsoyiannis, Anna, An Econometric Study of the Leaf Tobacco Market of Greece (Athens: Papadimitropoulos Press, 1963).
  3. Demand Functions for Tobacco," Manchester School, Vol. 33, No. 1 (January 1963), pp. 1-20.
  4. Theory of Econometrics, First and Second Editions (London and Basingstoke: The Macmillan Press Ltd., 1973 and 1977).
  5. Modern Microeconomics, First and Second Editions (London and Basingstoke: The Macmillan Press Ltd., 1975 and 1979).
  6. Non-Price Decisions: The Firm in a Modern Context (London and Basingstoke: The Macmillan Press Ltd., 1982).
  7. "Goals of Oligopolistic Firms: An Empirical Test of Competing Hypotheses," Southern Economic Journal, Vol. 51, No. 2 (October 1984), pp. 540-567. [Note: The journal reference and date are incorrect in her biographical entry (8 below).]
  8. [Biographical entry, written by her], in Mark Blaug, Who's Who in Economics [Reference No. 1 above].
  9. Lavoie, Marc, Foundations of Post-Keynesian Economics (Aldershot, U.K.: Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd., 1992).
  10. Sayadi, Ellie, telephone interview with the author, May 17, 1999.

Appendix: Women Economists in Who's Who in Economics


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