The first Greek appointed as as Chief Economist at the World Bank
Famous Greeks

The first Greek appointed as as Chief Economist at the World Bank

Penelope Kougianou-Goldberg, a professor of economics at Yale University, is the first Greek and the second woman who served as a Chief Economist at the World Bank.

Penelope Kougianou was born in Athens and went to the German Gymnasium of Athens. She received a scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service and even though she got in first place at the Financial Department of the University of Athens, she decided to study Economics at the University of Freiburg in Germany – a decision that opened the door to the United States. Then, she completed her doctoral thesis at Stanford University with a scholarship from the Onassis Foundation and obtained her Ph.D. in 1992. She currently holds dual citizenship, in Greece and the USA.

She taught as an assistant professor at Princeton University and worked as a professor at Columbia University, until 2001. From 2001 to 2007, she taught at Yale, while in 2007-2010 she returned to being a professor at the Princeton University. She was the first woman to be the editor-in-chief in the American Economic Review magazine, one of the world’s leading scientific research journals, a post she held until 2017.



Her dozens of publications focus on applied the microeconomic theory, the international trade and industrial organization. More recently, she has studied the effect of trade liberalization on revenue growth and distribution as well as the effects of IPR enforcement in developing countries.

On April 27, 2018, Pinelopi Kougianou-Goldberg was selected as the World Bank’s next Chief Economist, thus becoming the first Greek-born person to occupy this top position since the Bank was founded in 1972, and only the second woman, after Ann Osborne Kruger. Eminent economists have served from this position in the past, with Joseph Stiglitz as more known. Kougianou-Goldberg will take up this post in November 2018, succeeding Shanta Devarajan, who is temporarily in office, and Paul Romer. Until then, she will be teaching at Yale University.

While an undergraduate in Germany, Koujianou Goldberg, 55, now the Elihu Professor of Economics at Yale, applied for an internship at the bank, in the days when there was no email and got some career-changing advice.



“Some very nice person actually replied to my letter … and wrote that they would not even consider my application for an internship if I were not enrolled in a doctoral program. So at that point, I decided that I needed to get a doctoral degree,” she told The National Herald.

“The U.S. was famous for its postgraduate education in Economics, so I applied to several U.S. institutions and decided to go to Stanford in the end,” she said.

That led to her writing and co-writing papers on an array of economic topics, including intellectual property rights, the global market, multi-product firms in India, and local-currency price stability, the kind of arcane topics that make eyes roll outside of her field, but open them in hers and get noticed.

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, in announcing the appointment, said, “I’m thrilled that Penny Goldberg will bring her vast academic experience, intellectual rigor, and boundless curiosity to the World Bank Group,” at the institution which provides loans to countries of the world for capital projects, especially those still developing economies.



“Penny has spent her career examining many of the most complex issues that affect developing countries, and she will help answer the most important – and difficult – questions of our time: how to help developing countries prepare for the economy of the future, and how to ensure equality of opportunity everywhere in the world,” he said.

Goldberg, a Greek and US national, brings an impressive track record as a leading applied microeconomist, widely cited for her research on developing countries—including the effects of trade on inequality and firm productivity, and profits and innovation.

Furthermore, she is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a recipient of fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.