He was previously Warden of Nuffield College. Before coming to Oxford in 1994, he was Professor of Political Economy at the University of Cambridge, and, before that, Chairman of the Suntory Toyota International Centre at the London School of Economics.
Sir Atkinson has been President of the Royal Economic Society, of the Econometric Society, of the European Economic Association and of the International Economic Association. He is an Honorary Member of the American Economic Association. He has served on the Royal Commission on the Distribution of Income and Wealth, the Pension Law Review Committee, and the Commission on Social Justice. He has been a member of the Conseil d’Analyse Economique, advising the French Prime Minister. He is also a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.
Sir Atkinson is author of Unequal Shares, The Economics of Inequality, Lectures on Public Economics (with J.E. Stiglitz), Poverty and Social Security, Public Economics in Action, Incomes and the Welfare State, Poverty in Europe, The Economic Consequences of Rolling Back the Welfare State, and Social Indicators: The EU and Social Inclusion (with B. Cantillon, E. Marlier and B. Nolan), and The Changing Distribution of Earnings in OECD Countries. He has published articles in, among other journals, the Review of Economic Studies, the Journal of Economic Theory, the Quarterly Journal of Economics, the Economic Journal, the Scandinavian Journal of Economics, and the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. He was the editor of the Journal of Public Economics for twenty-five years.