Dr. McCracken was a native of Iowa. He held an A.B. degree from William Penn College, Oskaloosa, Iowa, and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in economics from Harvard University. Additionally, he held honorary degrees from several colleges and universities, including William Penn College, Albion, Berea, Central Michigan University, and Northern Michigan University. After graduate study at Harvard, he worked as an economist in the U.S. Department of Commerce, Washington, D.C., and then as a financial economist and director of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
Beginning in 1948, he was a member of the faculty of the School of Business Administration at The University of Michigan. In 1966, he was appointed Edmund Ezra Day Distinguished University Professor of Business Administration at the University.
McCracken was on leave from the University from 1956 to 1959, while he served as Member of the President's Council of Economic Advisers. He returned to the Council at the beginning of 1969 to serve for three years as its Chairman. He was also a member of President Reagan's Economic Policy Advisory Board. He was a member of the Public Oversight Board of the AICPA, a member of the Harvard Graduate Society Council, and has been Chairman of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and a member of the President's Council of Berea College.
McCracken was a director of several companies, among them Dow Chemical Co., Johnson Controls, Lincoln National Corporation, Sara Lee, and Texas Instruments.
Author of periodic op-ed articles for The Wall Street Journal and of numerous papers and monographs on economic and financial policy, he lectured and travelled throughout the world and participated on national and international economic commissions, task forces, and conferences. He is listed in Who's Who in America, International Who's Who in the Midwest, Who's Who in American Politics, and in American Men of Science.