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Barnett received his B.S. degree from M.I.T., his M.B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University. He has published 17 books (as either author or editor) and over 130 articles in professional journals.
Barnett is currently the Oswald Distinguished Professor of Macroeconomics at the University of Kansas and Director, Center for Financial Stability, in New York City. He also is Senior Fellow of the IC2 Institute at the University of Texas at Austin. He was previously Research Economist at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System in Washington, D.C.; Stuart Centennial Professor of Economics at the University of Texas at Austin; and Professor of Economics at Washington University in St. Louis. Prior to becoming an economist, he was a rocket scientist, working as one of the system development engineers on the F-1 booster rocket engine for Project Apollo at Rocketdyne.
Barnett is a leading researcher in macroeconomics and econometrics. He is one of the pioneers in the study of chaos and nonlinearity in socioeconomic contexts, as well as a major figure in the study of the aggregation problem, which lies at the heart of how individual and aggregate data are related. He is the originator of the Divisia Monetary Aggregates. The earliest data with those aggregates, extending back to 1959, were produced by Salam Fayyad, the current Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority.
He is Editor of the Emerald monograph series International Symposia in Economic Theory and Econometrics, and Editor of the journal Macroeconomic Dynamics, published by Cambridge University Press. He and Nobel Laureate, Paul A. Samuelson, coedited the book, Inside the Economist's Mind: Conversations with Eminent Economists, Blackwell Publishing (2007) ISBN 1-4051-5917-0.