Pan A. Yotopoulos, professor of economics, emeritus, at Stanford, died Dec. 17, 2019, at 86. He specialized in economic development and agricultural economics, economic demography, international trade, production and consumption theory.

In 2003, Stanford economist Pan A. Yotopoulos was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. (Image credit: Dimitrios Panagos)

Yotopoulos joined Stanford in 1968 as an associate professor of economics at the former Food Research Institute after having taught at the University of Wisconsin and the University of Hawaii.

“Pan was a force of nature,” said his Stanford colleague and collaborator Scott Rozelle, the Helen F. Farnsworth Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. “He was also intensely interested in all things economics.”

Among the topics Yotopoulos examined were agricultural economics and economic development, where he explored such critical issues as global food crises, human hunger, poverty and the unequal distribution of income.

Throughout his career, Yotopoulos sought to address economic disparities in developing regions, from the Mediterranean to South East Asia to Latin America.

“Agricultural growth has been shackled in many countries by the idea that agriculture must be a handmaiden to industry, and that its function is to provide surplus with which to finance industrial growth,” said Yotopoulos in a 1978 interview.

Yotopoulos looked at how agriculture – especially advancing agricultural productivity – could help alleviate poverty at regional levels. He believed that increasing production on small farms could reduce reliance on food imports, increase local jobs and lower the risk of starvation.

“I have always thought that his work in applied microeconomics, especially the development of the profit function and its application to agriculture, was his dominant research contribution,” said Walter Falcon, who directed the Food Research Institute and is the Helen C. Farnsworth Professor of International Agricultural Policy, emeritus.

Pushing research frontiers

In his seminal book, co-authored with Jeffrey Nugent in 1976, Economics of Development: Empirical Investigations, Yotopoulos made the case that poverty cannot be alleviated through growth alone and that planning and policy are crucial to advancing the economies of less-developed countries.

Yotopoulos also collaborated with Lawrence Lau, the Kwoh-Ting Li Professor in Economic Development, emeritus, at Stanford and a professor of economics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Among their many publications, the most cited include “A Test for Relative Efficiency and Application to Indian Agriculture” in The American Economic Review (1971) and “The Meta-Production Function Approach to Technological Change in World Agriculture” in the Journal of Development Economics (1979).

“It is the work he produced in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s that are still cited today and continues to be regarded as a series of exquisite contributions to our understanding of demand, income distribution and rural poverty,” said Marcel Fafchamps, an economist and senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.

By the 1990s, Yotopoulos’ research interests shifted to issues of globalization and exchange rates. In 1995, he published Exchange Rate Parity for Trade and Development: Theory, Tests and Case Studies, which examined the effects of government policy on exchange rates in developing countries and, in 1997, Food Security, Gender and Population.

“Pan’s research was also always pushing new frontiers,” said Rozelle. “He was creative and bold in his research agenda. He also pushed his colleagues and students out of their comfort zone and was successful in a way few academics have ever been.”

Passionate about teaching, mentoring

In addition to a productive research career, Yotopoulos’ was committed to teaching, administration and advising.

Yotopoulos taught classes on the analyses of production, empirical investigations in the economics of development and in the applied theories of development. He also served as a member of the Academic Senate.

Yotopoulos also cared deeply about his students and would open his family’s home during the holidays, recalled his daughter, Kyvele Artinian.

“Holidays at our house were always cross-cultural occasions as my father would include any students whose families were far away,” Artinian said. “Dad would bring them home and into our family. My father was a very generous and inclusive man.”

Yotopoulos also advised and consulted international organizations, including the World Bank’s International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

After the fall of the dictatorship in Greece in 1974, Yotopoulos took a leave from Stanford to advise the Greek government on its pursuit of admission to the European Union.

Yotopoulos also taught extensively abroad, including at the Stockholm School of Economics in Sweden, the University of Tilburg in the Netherlands, Kyoto University in Japan, the University of Siena in Italy and the Nanyang Technical University in Singapore.

“Dad traveled across cultures and geographies with endless curiosity and interest, a wonderful teacher wherever he went,” his son Jason Yotopoulos said. “He was a truly good man with a unique sparkle in his eyes, warm smile and boundless energy – all expressions of his deep love of life.”

Yotopoulos retired from Stanford in 2002 and went on to teach at the University of Florence for six years, where he was appointed a distinguished professorship.

Early life and career

Yotopoulos was born May 10, 1933, in Athens, Greece. He earned his undergraduate degree in political science and economics from the University of Athens.

Yotopoulos came to the United States in 1956 on a Fulbright Grant. He earned his master’s degree in economics from the University of Kansas and his doctorate in economics from University of California, Los Angeles.

From 1963 to 1965, Yotopoulos was the director at the Center for Planning and Economic Research at the National Academy in Athens, Greece.

Some of Yotopoulos’ recognitions include the National Kapodistrian University Medal of Honor, the American Agricultural Economics Association Award for Professional Excellence and memberships with the American Economic Association, the American Agricultural Economics Association and the Royal Economic Society. He also received the Foundation Medal from the National Foundation of Agricultural Research in Athens, Greece.

In 2003, Yotopoulos received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, an annual award given to a select group of distinguished American citizens who have honored the history and traditions of their ancestry while also upholding American values within their community.

“He was very proud of his heritage,” Falcon recalled. “I still remember his Puckish smile, when responding to something he understood that others did not, ‘Well, I guess it is just Greek to me.’”

Yotopoulos is survived by Mary Yotopoulos; two children, Kyvele Artinian and Jason Yotopoulos (’91, MBA ’96); and two grandchildren, Mattias and Danae Yotopoulos.

A funeral will be held Friday, Jan. 10, at 3 p.m. at the Holy Cross Church, 900 Alameda de las Pulgas, in Belmont.