William D. Ferguson is the Gertrude B. Austin Professor of Economics at Grinnell College, where he has taught since 1989. For 11 years, he served as Secretary-Treasurer of the Midwest Economics Association. After graduating from Grinnell College in 1975, with a B.A. in history, he worked as a neighborhood community organizer in Seattle Washington, until 1982 and then decided to study economics. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1989. After a term at Williams College, he moved Grinnell in August 1989.
Professor Ferguson’s teaching has ranged from institutional political economy, applied game theory, and policy analysis to labor economics, British economic policy (taught in London), London as a global economic centre (also in London), climate policy (taught in Washington D.C.), the political economy of the firm, econometrics, statistics, macroeconomic analysis, and macroeconomic theory and policy. His early publications focused on theory of implicit bargaining power in employment relationships—with and without unions.
Beginning in 2009, he shifted focus to institutional political economy and development. While writing his recent book, Collective Action and Exchange: A Game-Theoretic Approach to Contemporary Political Economy (Stanford University Press, 2013), he visited as a scholar at University College London and Indiana University’s Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, where he discussed his manuscript with 2009 Nobel Prize winner, the late Elinor Ostrom.
Since then, he has written six working papers with game-theoretic approaches to uncertainty, mental models, social norms, networks, power dynamics, and collective-action problems of achieving substantive reform and presented them at Oxford University, the London School of Economics, Nottingham University, the University of Cape Town, and other locations.
In February, 2016, he delivered the Grinnell Lecture, “Conceptualizing Human Social Interaction through the Lens of Collective-Action Problems.” During academic year 2017-2018, he visited as a scholar and delivered seminars at the Institute for New Economic Thinking and the Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford University; the Effective States and Inclusive Development Research Centre, University of Manchester; the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research,University of Amsterdam; and the WZB Berlin Social Science Research Center.
In November 2017, he gave the Adrian Leftwich Memorial Lecture for the Global Development Institute, University of Manchester. During these visits, he wrote most of his next book: The Political Economy of Collective Action, Inequality, and Development, Stanford University Press, May 2020. Professor Ferguson lives in Grinnell, Iowa with his wife, Claudia Beckwith. They have two children, 26-year old twins Caitlin and Taylor.