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Thomas Schelling's Mug Shot Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences 2005
Lucius N. Littauer Professor of Political Economy, Emeritus, Harvard University, USA
Distinguished University Professor, Emeritus, Department of Economics and School of Public Affairs, University of Maryland, USA

co-reason for the prize:

for having enhanced our understanding of conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis


Main Topics: politica economica e internazionale; teoria dei giochi, strategie di conflitto e cooperazione; sicurezza nazionale, strategie nucleari e controllo delle armi

Professional Profile: Prof. Schelling came to the Maryland School of Public Affairs after twenty years at the Harvard University, where he was the Lucius N. Littauer Professor of Political Economy.
During his career, he has been awarded many prizes, served in the Economic Cooperation Administration in Europe, and has held positions in the White House and Executive Office of the President.
He has published on military strategy and arms control, energy and environmental policy, climate change, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, organized crime, foreign aid and international trade, conflict and bargaining theory, racial segregation and integration, the military draft, health policy, tobacco and drugs policy, and ethical issues in public policy and in business. Schelling's most famous book The Strategy of Conflict (1960), has pioneered the study of bargaining and strategic behaviour and is considered one of the hundred books that have been most influential in the West since 1945. In this book he introduced the concept of the focal point, now commonly called the Schelling point, that is a solution that people will tend to use in the absence of communication, because it seems natural, special or relevant to them.
In 1971, he published a widely cited article dealing with racial dynamics called Dynamic Models of Segregation. In this paper he showed that a small preference for one's neighbours to be of the same color could lead to total segregation. He used coins on graph paper to demonstrate his theory by placing pennies and nickels in different patterns on the "board" and then moving them one by one if they were in an "unhappy" situation. The positive feedback cycle of segregation -prejudice- in group preference can be found in most human populations, with great variations in what are regarded as meaningful differences - gender, age, race, ethnicity, language, sexual preference, religion, etc. Once a cycle of separation-prejudice-discrimination-separation has begun, it has a self-sustaining momentum.
Schelling has been involved in the global warming debate since chairing a commission for President Carter in 1980. He believes climate change poses a serious threat to developing nations, but that the threat to the United States has been exagerated. Drawing on his experience with the post-war Marshall Plan, he has argued that addressing global warming is a bargaining problem: if the world is able to reduce emissions, poor countries will receive most of the benefits but rich countries will bear most of the costs.


  • A.B. Economics, University of California, Berkeley, 1944
  • Ph.D. Economics, Harvard University, 1951



Selected Works:
  • T. C. Schelling, Choice and Consequence, Harvard University Press, 1984
  • T. C. Schelling, Micromotives and Macrobehavior, W. W. Norton and Co., 1978
  • T. C. Schelling, Arms and Influence, Yale University Press, 1966
  • T. C. Schelling, The Strategy of Conflict, Harvard University Press, 1960