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Fox, Karl

Published onAug 04, 2021
Fox, Karl

(July 14, 1917 — April 20, 2008)

Quick Facts

Fox was an esteemed American economist, senior war-time staff at the USDA and head of the departments of Economics and Sociology at Iowa State.



Karl August Fox, an American economist, taught at Iowa State University (ISU) from 1955 to 1987 and holds the distinction of being an Emeritus Professor of Economics and Emeritus Distinguished Professor in Liberal Arts and Sciences. Fox was born in 1917 in Salt Lake City, Utah, one of three sons born to Anna Wilcken and Feramorz Young Fox. His father taught economics at the Latter-Day Saints University in Salt Lake City and eventually became the university president. Fox enrolled at the University of Utah where he earned his BA in English in 1937 and an MA in Sociology in 1938. He then went on to earn a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley in 1954, where he focused his research on the demand for farm products.

During World War II, Fox worked with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). From 1942 to 1944, he worked with the War Food Administration, which was an agency within the USDA that was created because of the war.1 Fox then transitioned to the Bureau of Agricultural Economics in 1944 where he remained until 1955; his work there helped him with his dissertation. From his work on the Marshall Plan (the European Recovery Program) where the United States gave economic assistance to Western Europe after World War II, Fox received the Superior Service Award from the USDA in 1948.2 From 1951 to 1954, Fox served as the Head of the Division of Statistical and Historical Research. During his final year with the Bureau, he was selected as a senior staff economist for the President’s Council of Economic Advisers under President Dwight Eisenhower.

Upon leaving the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, he accepted the position as Professor and Head of the Department of Economics and Sociology at Iowa State College (now University) in 1955. Sociology became a separate department in 1966, but Fox retained his role as Head of the Economics Department until 1972 when he returned his focus to his teaching and research.3 He was recognized as a Distinguished Professor in 1968 and received a distinguished service award in 1995.4

Fox had an esteemed career in economics where he pursued interests in several areas. These interests included: “social system accounts, models, theory, and data; behavior settings and eco-behavioral science; systems of economics; history of econometrics; demand analysis for farm and food products; spatial equilibrium models; models of interaction between agriculture and the general economy; econometric models for stabilization and growth; theory of economic policy; functional economic areas (urban-regional economics); and models of educational institutions and systems.”5

Fox earned several honors throughout his illustrious career in economics both with the USDA and ISU. His honors include: Fellow, Econometric Society (1959), American Statistical Association (1961), American Association for the Advancement of Science (1963), American Agricultural Economics Association (1972); American Agricultural Economics Association Awards for Outstanding Published Research (1952, 1954, 1957), Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation (1953), and Publication of Enduring Quality for his first book, Econometric Analysis for Public Policy (1977); Member of Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi; National Science Foundation grants for basic research, 1962-1980 and 1985-90; Who’s Who in America 1958-97; Who’s Who in the World, 1974-94; Who’s Who in Science and Engineering, 1994-96; and the Merit of Honor Award from the Emeritus Alumni Association of the University of Utah (1992).6

Additionally, Fox had a prolific writing career, which included such published works as: Econometric Analysis for Public Policy (Iowa State University Press, 1958); Theory of Quantitative Economic Policy written with Jati K. Sengupta and Erik Thorbecke (Rand McNally and North-Holland, 1966); Economic Analysis for Educational Planning: Resource Allocation in Nonmarket Systems written with Sengupta (John Hopkins, 1972); Social Indicators and Social Theory (Wiley, 1974); Social System Accounts: Linking Social and Economic Indicators through Tangible Behavior Settings (Reider, 1985); Demand Analysis, Econometrics, and Policy Models (Iowa State University Press, 1992); and Urban-Regional Economics, Social System Accounts, and Eco-Behavioral Science (Iowa State University Press, 1994).7 Notably, Fox also published two statistics textbooks that were widely accepted: Intermediate Economic Statistics (Wiley, 1968) and Introduction to Economic Statistics (Wiley, 1970).8

Fox married Sylvia Olive Cate on July 30, 1940, and the next day, he and Sylvia left Utah for Berkeley, California. The Foxes had two children, Karl and Karen, who both were born in California.9 Fox retired from teaching in 1987 but he continued with his research until 1994. Fox’s research inspired generations of economists who continued some of the ideas that he researched and wrote on, and he mentored quite a few graduate students throughout his career many of whom went on to have their own distinguished careers in economics.

Fox died in Ames, Iowa at the Northcrest Health Care Center on April 20, 2008.10 He is interred, with wife Sylvia, at the Iowa State University Cemetery, Ames, Iowa.

Selected Sources

“Karl A. Fox.” Iowa State University Department of Economics. N.d. Accessed 8 November 2018.

Karl A. Fox Papers. RS 13/9/16. Special Collections, Iowa State University Library.

“Marshall Plan, 1948.” Office of the Historian. N.d. Accessed 27 November 2018.

“Memorial Resolutions May 5, 2009 - Karl A. Fox.” Iowa State University Faculty Senate: Memorial Resolutions. 2018. Accessed 8 November 2018.

“Obituary: Karl Fox.” Grandon Funeral and Cremation Care. 2018. Accessed 8 November 2018.

“Obituaries: Sylvia Olive Cate Fox.” Ames Tribune. 2018. Accessed 8 November 2018.

“Series III. Secretary’s and Agency Memoranda.” United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Library. N.d. Accessed 27 November 2018.

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