Thomas Sowell

Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow on Public Policy
Awards and Honors:
American Philosophical Society
National Academy of Education

Thomas Sowell is the Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution.

He writes on economics, history, social policy, ethnicity, and the history of ideas. His most recent books on economics include Housing Boom and Bust (2009), Intellectuals and Society (2009), Applied Economics (2009), Economic Facts and Fallacies (2008), Basic Economics (2007), and Affirmative Action Around the World (2004). Other books on economics he has written include Classical Economics Reconsidered (1974), Say’s Law (1972), and Economics: Analysis and Issues (1971). On social policy he has written Knowledge and Decisions (1980), Preferential Policies (1989), Inside American Education (1993) and The Vision of the Anointed (1995). On the history of ideas he has written Marxism (1985) and Conflict of Vision (1987). His most recent books are Barbarians Inside the Gates (1999) and The Quest for Cosmic Justice (1999). Sowell also wrote Late-Talking Children (1997). He has also written a monograph on law titled Judicial Activism Reconsidered, published by the Hoover Institution Press. His writings have also appeared in scholarly journals in economics, law, and other fields.

Sowell’s current research focuses on cultural history in a world perspective, a subject on which he began to write a trilogy in 1982. The trilogy includes Race and Culture (1994), Migrations and Cultures (1996), and Conquests and Cultures (1998).

Sowell's journalistic writings include a nationally syndicated column that appears in more than 150 newspapers from Boston to Honolulu. Some of these essays have been collected in book form, most recently in Ever Wonder Why? and Other Controversial Essays published by the Hoover Institution Press.

Over the past three decades, Sowell has taught economics at various colleges and universities, including Cornell, Amherst, and the University of California at Los Angeles, as well as the history of ideas at Brandeis University. He has also been associated with three other research centers, in addition to the Hoover Institution. He was project director at the Urban Institute, 1972-1974, a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, 1976–77, and was an adjunct scholar of the American Enterprise Institute, 1975-76.

Sowell was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2002. In 2003, Sowell received the Bradley Prize for intellectual achievement. Sowell received his bachelor’s degree in economics (magna cum laude) from Harvard in 1958, his master’s degree in economics from Columbia University in 1959, and his PhD in economics from the University of Chicago in 1968.

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Recent Commentary

How Black Leaders Are Leading Black Americans Astray

by Thomas Sowellvia Hoover Digest
Saturday, January 30, 1999

Black leaders are less interested in leading black Americans than in “extracting what they can from white people.” An essay by Hoover fellow Thomas Sowell.


Barbarians inside the Gates and Other Controversial Essays

by Thomas Sowellvia Hoover Institution Press
Friday, January 15, 1999

A collection of essays that discusses such issues as the media, immigration, the minimum wage and multiculturalism.

Culture and Equality

by Thomas Sowellvia Hoover Digest
Friday, October 30, 1998

What accounts for the enormous disparities in economic, social, and political development among nations and peoples? Not race or genes—but culture. Hoover fellow Thomas Sowell reflects on the findings of his masterwork, the trilogy made up of the volumes Race and Culture, Migrations and Cultures, and Conquests and Cultures.

Race, Culture, and Equality

by Thomas Sowellvia Analysis
Friday, July 17, 1998

In his remarks at the Commonwealth Club of California on June 18, 1998, Thomas Sowell discussed the conclusions he reached after spending fifteen years researching the economic and social impacts of cultural differences among peoples and nations around the world. This essay, Race, Culture, and Equality, distills the results found in the trilogy that was published during these years---Race and Culture (1994), Migrations and Cultures (1996), and Conquests and Cultures (1998).

The most obvious and inescapable finding from these years of research is that huge disparities in income and wealth have been the rule, not the exception, in countries around the world and over centuries of human history. Real income consists of outputs and these outputs have been radically different because the inputs have been radically different from peoples with different cultures.

Geography alone creates profound differences among peoples. It is not simply that such natural wealth as oil and gold are very unequally distributed around the world. More fundamentally, people themselves are different because of different levels of access to other peoples and cultures. Isolated peoples have always lagged behind those with greater access to a wider world, whether isolation has been the result of mountains, jungles, widely scattered islands or other geographic barriers.

Cities have been in the vanguard of cultural, technological and economic progress in virtually every civilization. But the geographic settings in which cities flourish are by no means equally distributed around the globe. Urbanization has been correspondingly unequally developed in different geographic regions--most prevalent among the networks of navigable waterways in Western Europe and least prevalent where such waterways are most lacking in tropical Africa.

If geography is not egalitarian, neither is demography. When the median age of Jews in the United States is 20 years older than the median age of Puerto Ricans, then there is no way that these two groups could be equally represented in jobs requiring long years of experience, in retirement homes or in sports. Even if they were identical in every other way, radically different age distributions would prevent their being equal in incomes or occupations.

Discrimination is also one of the many factors operating against equality. But even if all human beings behaved like saints toward one another, the other factors would still make equality of income and wealth virtually impossible to achieve.

Neither geography nor history can be undone but we can at least avoid artificially creating cultural isolation under glittering names like "multiculturalism."

Who Says the Globe Is Warming?

by Thomas Sowellvia Hoover Digest
Thursday, April 30, 1998

Hoover fellow Thomas Sowell notes that the central assumption on which the entire debate over global warming is based—that the globe is growing warmer as a result of human activity—is utterly unproved.

At the University of California, the Sky Has Not Fallen

by Thomas Sowellvia Hoover Digest
Friday, January 30, 1998

The regents of the University of California voted in 1995 to end affirmative action on all nine UC campuses. Hoover fellow Thomas Sowell has looked at the results, and he concludes that the educational climate for minorities has gotten better, not worse.

We're All Fat Cats Now

by Thomas Sowellvia Hoover Digest
Friday, January 30, 1998

You may not have made the Forbes 400, but there's still a good chance the government thinks you're rich. By Hoover fellow Thomas Sowell.

A Black Man Confronts Africa

by Thomas Sowellvia Hoover Digest
Thursday, October 30, 1997

Hoover fellow Thomas Sowell examines a new book, Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa. The book is honest, Sowell finds, a quality that by itself is enough to render the volume "almost shocking."

Supply-Side Politics

by Thomas Sowellvia Hoover Digest
Thursday, October 30, 1997

If you want to understand politics, argues Hoover fellow Thomas Sowell, look at the supply side--the kinds of people who make politics their career. It's the candidates, stupid.

Brainwashing the Children

by Thomas Sowellvia Hoover Digest
Wednesday, July 30, 1997

Grade-schoolers used to be assigned themes such as "What I Did on My Summer Vacation." Now they get themes such as "How God Messed Up." What's happening in our public schools? Hoover fellow Thomas Sowell has a name for it: brainwashing.