Burton Malkiel (Burton Gordon Malkiel) (born August 28, 1932) is an American economist and writer, most famous for his classic finance book A Random Walk Down Wall Street (first published 1973, in its 12th edition as of 2019). He is a leading proponent of the efficient-market hypothesis, which contends that prices of publicly traded assets reflect all publicly available information, although he has also pointed out that some markets are evidently inefficient, exhibiting signs of non-random walk.
Malkiel is the Chemical Bank chairman’s professor of economics at Princeton University, and is a two-time chairman of the economics department there. He served as a member of the Council of Economic Advisers (1975–1977), president of the American Finance Association (1978), and dean of the Yale School of Management (1981–1988). He also spent 28 years as a director of the Vanguard Group. He currently serves as Chief Investment Officer to software-based financial advisor, Wealthfront Inc. and as a member of the Investment Advisory Board for Rebalance.
Burton Malkiel in general supports buying and holding index funds as the most effective portfolio-management strategy, but does think it is viable to actively manage “around the edges” of such a portfolio, as financial markets are not totally efficient. In a 2020 interview, Malkiel also stated he was not opposed in principle to investing or trading in single stocks (as exemplified by the popularity of Robinhood or Wealthfront), provided the large majority of one’s portfolio is index funds.
Life and career
In 1949, Malkiel graduated from Boston Latin School, and went on to receive his bachelor’s degree (1953) and his MBA (1955) from Harvard University. He originally went into the business world, but had always had an interest in academic economics and eventually earned his Ph.D. in economics from Princeton University in 1964 after completing a doctoral dissertation titled “Problems in the structure of financial markets.”
He married his first wife, Judith Atherton Malkiel, in 1954; they had one son, Jonathan. After Judith Malkiel’s death in 1987, Burton Malkiel married his second wife, Nancy Weiss, in 1988. (Nancy Weiss Malkiel was Dean of the College of Princeton University from 1987 to 2011.) He served as a first lieutenant in the United States Army from 1955 to 1958. He also serves on the advisory panel of Robert D. Arnott’s investment management firm, Research Affiliates. Malkiel’s hobbies include casino games and horse race betting, to which he applies mathematical and statistical analysis.