NEW YORK — Anna J. Schwartz, a research economist who wrote monumental works on US financial history in collaboration with Nobel laureate Milton Friedman while remaining largely in his shadow, died Thursday at her home in New York City. She was 96.
Her death was confirmed by her daughter, Naomi Pasachoff.
Dr. Schwartz, who earned her doctorate in economics at age 48 and dispensed policy appraisals well into her 90s, was often called the ‘‘high priestess of monetarism,’’ upholding a school of thought that maintains that the size and turnover of the money supply largely determines the pace of inflation and economic activity.
The Friedman-Schwartz collaboration — ‘‘A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960,’’ a book of nearly 900 pages published in 1963 — is considered a classic. Ben S. Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, called it ‘‘the leading and most persuasive explanation of the worst economic disaster in American history.’’
The authors concluded that policy failures by the Fed, which largely controls the money supply, were one of the root causes of the Depression.
Bernanke acknowledged as much when he spoke at a 90th birthday celebration for Friedman in 2002.
‘‘I would like to say to Milton and Anna: Regarding the Great Depression, you’re right; we did it,’’ he said. ‘‘We’re very sorry, but thanks to you we won’t do it again.’’
Dr. Schwartz was widely known in the profession as the coauthor of much of the work that led to Friedman’s Nobel in economic science in 1976. Her supporters thought the prize might justly have been awarded jointly.
‘‘Anna did all of the work, and I got most of the recognition,’’ Friedman said on one occasion.
After Friedman’s death in 2006, Dr. Schwartz ‘‘became the standard-bearer’’ of Friedman monetarism, said Michael D. Bordo, a professor of economics at Rutgers University and for decades a collaborator with Dr. Schwartz.
Although ‘‘not a deep theorist,’’ he said, Dr. Schwartz was ‘‘probably the best woman economist of the 20th century.’’
During the financial collapse that began in 2008, she was one of the few surviving economists with a firsthand recollection of the Depression. After praising early moves by Bernanke, she wrote, at age 93, a bitingly critical Op-Ed article for The New York Times in July 2009 opposing the reappointment of the Fed chairman who had been so influenced by her work.
She contended that Bernanke had erred in producing ‘‘extreme ease’’ in monetary policy and in failing to warn investors that new financial instruments were difficult to price.
Dr. Schwartz also held that the government had been a bigger contributor to the crisis than had been widely realized. By her measure, the government had oversold the benefits of homeownership, pushing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-backed mortgage finance giants, to lend increasingly to lower-income borrowers and fostering exceptionally low mortgage rates.
A leading financial historian, Dr. Schwartz was also an expert on the monetary and banking statistics of Britain and the United States.
Dr. Schwartz was born Anna Jacobson in New York City.