Still, Yellen has said that when the economy finally begins growing faster and rates will need to be raised to prevent high inflation, she will move in that direction.
In the weeks leading to her selection, Yellen and Summers emerged as the two top contenders and were drawn into a highly unusual public battle. Yellen and Summers themselves kept quiet. But their warring camps waged a fight that stirred up Congress, spawned opinion columns and letters from Congress and triggered commentary from notables both inside and outside the economics profession.
Yellen drew outspoken support from Senate Democrats, a third of whom signed a letter this summer urging Obama to choose her. Last month, more than 350 economists signed a letter to Obama urging him to nominate Yellen. The letter argued that Yellen understands the relationship between interest-rate policy and economic growth, possesses a "nuanced understanding" of job markets and is inclined as a policymaker to consider all points of view.
If confirmed by the Senate, Yellen would be the first Democrat chosen to lead the Fed since Paul Volcker was picked by Jimmy Carter in 1979. Bernanke, who served for eight years, and his predecessor, Alan Greenspan, who did so for 18½ years, were Republicans. She would also be the first vice chair of the Fed to ascend to the chairmanship.
Yellen served as a Fed board member for three years in the 1990s before leaving to head the Council of Economic Advisers in the Clinton administration. She also served for six years as president of the Fed's regional bank in San Francisco before Obama chose her in 2010 for the No. 2 spot on the Fed's seven-member board in Washington.
In addition to helping devise the Fed's rate policies, she has been instrumental in carrying out another top priority of Bernanke's — making the Fed, an institution whose operations were long walled off from the public view, far more open and transparent. The Bernanke-led Fed did so through news conferences, clearer public communications and detailed guidance about the Fed's expectations for the economy and policymaking.
Yellen, like Bernanke, was a distinguished college economics professor before joining the Fed. She taught at the University of California at Berkeley from 1980 until 1994 when President Bill Clinton chose her to join the Fed's board in Washington. She served on the Fed's board of governors until February 1997, when Clinton chose her to lead the White House Council of Economic Advisers.
Yellen would not only be the first woman to head the U.S. central bank; she also would be the first woman ever to head a major central bank anywhere in the world.
Yellen was born in Brooklyn and graduated from Brown University in 1967 with highest honors in economics. She received her doctorate in economics in 1971 from Yale, where she studied under the Nobel Prize-winning economist James Tobin. In a 1997 interview with Business Week magazine, Tobin described Yellen as having "a genius for expressing complicated arguments simply and clearly."
She was an assistant professor at Harvard University from 1971 to 1976 and then worked as an economist at the Federal Reserve in Washington from 1977 to 1978. She met her husband, George Akerlof, in a Fed cafeteria. The two worked together for many years on the Berkeley faculty. Akerlof shared a Nobel in economics in 2001 with Joseph E. Stiglitz and A. Michael Spence.
Yellen was known as a pragmatist in her economic research, which ranged from studies on urban gang behavior to currency problems facing Germany after its reunification.
Most Popular Stories
- Apple Wants Samsung to Pay $22M for Patent Dispute Legal Bills
- Twitter Coming to Phones Without Internet
- NASA Fellowships, Scholarships Bring Diversity to Workforce
- Dish Network Leads 2013 Top 50 Advertisers List
- Networks Vie for U.S. Hispanic TV Viewers
- Ad Counts Rise in 2013 for Hispanic Magazines
- Entravision Initiates Quarterly Cash Dividend
- Jobs Report Brings Cheer As Unemployment Drops to Five-year Low
- Warner Bros. Unleashes 'Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug' Merchandise
- Shanghai Smog Forces Factory Shutdowns