Thomas Piketty was born on May 7, 1971, in the Parisian suburb of Clichy, Hauts-de-Seine. His parents had affiliations with a militant Trotskyite group and were involved in the May 1968 protests in Paris. However, after Piketty was born, they moved away from the Trotskyite and later, became politically involved with the French Socialist Party. After clearing his baccalauréat examination, Thomas began preparing for the École Normale Supérieure (ENS) entrance examination, he was accepted there at the age of 18 and he studied mathematics and economics. In 1990, he received a M.Sc. degree in Mathematics from the ENS, and later, in 1993, he received a Ph.D. in economics from the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) and also the London School of Economics European doctoral program for a dissertation on the theory of the redistribution of wealth. Piketty was among the youngest students to have earned a doctorate at the mere age of 22, his thesis on wealth distribution won the French Economics Association’s award for the best thesis of the year.
He began his career in 1993, as an assistant professor in the Department of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1995, he returned to France upon being offered the post of researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). In 2000, Piketty returned to teaching, he took up the post of an economics professor at the EHESS. Later in 2006, he became the founding director of the Paris School of Economics. He left this post shortly, to serve as an economic advisor to Socialist Party candidate Ségolène Royal during the French presidential campaign. He resumed teaching at the EHESS and Paris School of Economics in 2007.
Thomas Piketty has authored numerous books and articles, and worked with Saez, Atkinson, and Facundo Alvaredo, on the compilation of the World Top Incomes Database. In 2002, he was awarded the prize for the best young economist in France. In November 2003, he emerged as a member of the scientific orientation board of the association À gauche. In 2012, he co-authored, along with 42 other colleagues, an open letter for the support of Francois Hollande, the then-PS candidate for the French Presidency. Although, Piketty was unhappy with Hollande’s tenure, describing his policies as “hopeless”.
In 2013, he was awarded the biennial Yrjö Jahnsson Award, for being the economist under age 45 to have “made a contribution in theoretical and applied research that is significant to the study of economics in Europe.” Recently, in January 2015, he refused to honour the French Legion of Honour order, on grounds that he did not believe it was the government’s role to decide who is honourable.
He has contributed numerous articles to prominent journals such as the Quarterly Journal of Economics, the Journal of Political Economy, the American Economic Review and the Review of Economic Studies among others. Piketty has done ground breaking research in the field of economics, the focal point of his research has been based on the historical and theoretical aspects of the interplay between economic development and the distribution of income and wealth. His contributions marked the first initiative taken to provide academic literature on the unaddressed debate of the long run evolution of top income shares in national income. His book ‘Capital in the 21st Century’ is an international bestseller. Thomas Piketty is also a regular contributor for the French newspaper Libération, and occasionally writes for Le Monde.