James Arthur Hanson


Died June 30, 2019,McClean, Virginia

College: Timothy Dwight
Major: Economics
Graduate School: Yale University, M.A., Economics, 1963; Yale University, Ph.D., Economics, 1967; Brown University, M.A., Honorary, 1972

Widow: Mrs. Margaret G. Hanson
1059 Rector Lane
McLean, VA 22102-1709
703-599-8541 (mobile)
jhansonecon@yahoo.com; HanUSA2@yahoo.com

Children: Kristina Hanson-Lowell, 1971; Matthew A. Hanson, 1985; Anne Welles, 1965; Jeff Gall, 1966
Grandchildren: Zachary Nash, 1992; Danny Nash, 1994; Tommy Nash, 1996; Greta Lowell, 2008; Sylvie Lowell, 2010

I am happiest when associating with: my wonderful wife, Peggy; my children, Anne, Jeff, Kristina (Yale 1993), and Matt; and my five grandchildren. I thank my parents and the good Lord for the opportunity to attend Yale. I learned many things at Yale from my professors, my friends, and on the basketball floor.

I feel that I helped a lot of students as a professor at Brown, Georgetown, various Latin American universities, and now the Center for Development Economics at Williams College. I also have done my best to improve the lot of people in developing countries, through writings in economics and advice to governments and central banks in India, Indonesia, Egypt, and Latin American countries, in many of which I have lived. I continue with this work since I retired from the World Bank in 2004, traveling with my wife.

When I started studying the economic development process at Yale, as an undergrad and as a Ph.D., I knew that development was not easy. If it had been easy, all the countries would have been developed. But I have gradually learned how hard development is. A lot of theories and illusions were proved wrong. Nonetheless, I feel I have made a small contribution to the large increase in welfare in many of the countries that I have worked in over the last 40 years.

Jim Hanson passed away on June 30, 2019, in McLean, VA, following a 3-year struggle with Alzheimer’s disease and complications from hip surgery. He was born in Bridgeport, CT, on August 29, 1940, to Art, who owned a gas station, and Betty, a homemaker. At 6 foot 4 inches, Jim was a natural athlete who went from a public high school to Yale University on a scholarship. At Yale, he was in the top 10 percent of his class, played center on the basketball team, and received a Bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. in Economics, including a research stint in Venezuela under the auspices of the pioneering Yale Growth Center.

In 1966, Jim started as an economics professor at Brown University, where he taught many students who credited him with launching them on illustrious careers in public service. A popular professor who was twice named by students as the best teacher at Brown, Jim was often jokingly referred to as a “Chicago boy” by other economists due to his affinity for free trade and the policies of Milton Friedman. Over the course of his 15 years at Brown, Jim also frequently taught courses at Latin American universities and built an impressive body of oft-cited publications in both English and Spanish.

In 1980, Jim met his second wife Peggy in Jordan, where both were working on projects for the U.S. Agency for International Development. She asked him to carry her boots back to Washington while she proceeded to Yemen, and thus began a tumultuous relationship that ended in marriage in 1984.

Jim was recruited by the World Bank as a senior economist, continuing a long and illustrious career involving travel to far-flung, often impoverished countries and advising policy-makers on a host of challenges. In 1986, Jim, Peggy, and their unexpected bonus child, Matt, moved to New Delhi, India, where Jim was the lead economist and deputy mission director for the World Bank. Jim was popular with authorities in the Indian government and the family greatly enjoyed their four years in India. After a return to Washington, they moved again, this time to Jakarta, Indonesia, where Jim was the lead economist and deputy director of the World Bank Mission. He later said he felt he had more influence in Indonesia than in any of his other posts, having become a close advisor to the Minister of Finance and the Economic Advisor to the President.

In retirement, Jim completed numerous projects consulting for the World Bank, developing countries, and international development organizations. He especially enjoyed teaching for several semesters at the Center for International Economics at Williams College, where he taught students on the fast track to leadership positions in economic institutions in developing countries worldwide.

Throughout the entirety of his career, Jim was most at home working in a seemingly chaotic office filled with teetering stacks of paper, yet could somehow locate the precise document that could help a student or colleague on a moment’s notice. Jim was widely revered as a kind and effective mentor to many young economists and researchers. Female colleagues in particular noted that his acceptance of them on their intellectual merits raised their self-esteem in international organizations and in a field in which women often had to work a little harder to earn recognition and respect.

Along with his many professional accomplishments, Jim was known for his boisterous and infectious laugh; his willingness to share his honest opinions; his competitive spirit on the tennis court; and his unconditional kindness, which extended to the many people caring for him in his final days. Jim’s passion for traveling the world and his intellectual curiosity about all things are among the many cherished legacies he leaves to his family and close friends.

Jim Hanson is survived by his wife, Peggy, daughter Kristina Lowell (Greg), son Matt Hanson (Jen), and stepchildren Anne Auer (Danny) and Jeff Gall (Chocoma), as well as seven grandchildren who absolutely adored him and treasured their time together. He also leaves three sisters, Elizabeth Hanson-Smith, Linda Duggan (Ed), and Eleanor Hanson.

A memorial service is scheduled for 2:00 pm on August 18th at Trinity United Methodist Church in McLean, VA (1205 Dolley Madison Blvd). The family welcomes any contributions to the Alzheimer’s Association in Jim’s name. Here is a link to the tribute page for him on their website.