Obituary: Patrick McMahon

Patrick Christopher McMahon, applied economist: born Limerick, Ireland 1 January 1939; Senior Lecturer Birmingham University 1971-87; Professor Tulane University 1987-93; married 1970 Gertrude Seger (two sons, one daughter); died New Orleans 22 July 1993.

PATRICK McMAHON worked for almost 30 years as a teacher and researcher in economics. An applied economist, he produced studies on inequality, inheritance and wealth in Britain which are still regarded, some 20 years on, as classic works.

McMahon's work showed that the distribution of wealth in Britain was extremely unequal compared to other advanced countries. By means of careful statistical analysis of different cohorts of wealth leavers, his work with Colin Harbury (in the Economic Journal, 1972), emphasised the continuing lack of economic and social mobility in Britain, the importance of inherited wealth and the comparative rarity of the 'self-made' person.

In the early 1980s he turned his attention to financial markets. His work in Econometrica, 1983, with myself and Bob Lippens, established the existence of a predictable bias between the forward rate for foreign exchange and the subsequent spot rate. The corollary of this work was that certain financial markets were either inefficient processors of information and/or that risk premium were important. Consequently, McMahon made other contributions to understanding the determinants and size of risk premium in forward contracts for foreign exchange. He completed related work on the impact of monetary conditions on floating exchange rates within different historical exchange-rate regimes. Some of this work was included in his book The Foreign Exchange Market: theory and econometric evidence (1988), which we co-wrote.

He also made several contributions to the understanding of consumers' behaviour and published studies on saving and investment in Germany. His great strength as an applied economist was his balanced view of the subject and his judgement in terms of how to use institutional knowledge, economic theory and when to apply statistical or econometric techniques. A rare combination of talents.

Patrick was the eldest of a family of seven and was brought up in relatively humble origins in Limerick, west Ireland. Educated at Trinity College, Dublin, he later did graduate work at Oxford University and obtained a Ph D at Birmingham University. He was a member of the faculty at Birmingham University as a Senior Lecturer and was subsequently Professor of Economics at Tulane University in New Orleans. He held visiting professorships at Kyoto University in Japan, at numerous universities in Germany including Mannheim and Saarbrucken, and was also Houblon Norman Fellow at the Bank of England.

In a sense he emigrated twice in his life. After a brief period of school teaching in Dublin, he decided to leave to study in England once his request for aid for part-time study had been denied by the Dublin school authorities. Later, he left Birmingham University for the United States in the wake of government policy which led to the inexorable decline of British universities in the 1980s. Although he joined the growing ranks of the brain drain, he nevertheless continued to spend some time in Birmingham and also maintained contact with many co-workers in France and Germany.

McMahon always had a deep respect and appreciation for all forms of scientific discovery, and for learning in general. He was able to transmit these feelings to others and could be an inspiring teacher and colleague. He was also enthusiastic and immensely knowledgeable on a wide range of subjects including music, theatre, art and wine. One of his most memorable characteristics was his sense of humour; he was blessed with a combination of eccentricity, Gaelic charm and a certain ability in mimicry, employed in a kindly manner. Despite various health problems over the last 10 years or so, his sense of humour, often directed at himself, was always visible. His continual battle with diets to reduce weight and hopefully lower his blood pressure became a source of fun to both himself and his friends.

He had a sweet tooth and he delighted in discussing economics in coffee houses which were well stocked with desserts. These conversations were invariably stimulating and a great pleasure for the many friends, students and colleagues who were profoundly affected by him over his career.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Reach Volunteering: Chair and trustees sought for YMCA Bolton

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Bolton YMCA is now a...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?