Updates: Economic Inequality

This winter, the Tobin Project convened top scholars to explore a question on the cutting edge of public and academic debate: Did economic inequality in the United States contribute to the financial crisis?

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The Tobin Project is pleased to announce that the MacArthur Foundation has renewed its support for Tobin Project programs with a generous, multi-year grant.

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In 2007, the wealthiest 1% of families controlled more than 23% of income in the U.S. for the first time since 1928.

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Energized by the rich dialogue she witnessed at Tobin’s spring inequality conference, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) offered to co-host a roundtable discussion between policymakers and scholars in Washington, D.C. The meeting brought together key administration officials and Congressional leaders with Tobin-affiliated scholars to explore the potential consequences of dramatic economic inequality in the United States.

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Shortly after the September release of their acclaimed book, Winner-Take-All Politics, Jacob Hacker (Yale University, Political Science) and Paul Pierson (University of California-Berkeley, Political Science) headlined a panel discussion in Cambridge co-sponsored by the Tobin Project and the Harvard Kennedy School.

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In the spring of 2010, the Tobin Project issued a call for fellowship aplications from students doing work that addresses the intersection between democratic institutions and economic markets. Fellowships were awarded to fourteen students, whose projects ranged from "Policymaking at the U.S. Federal Reserve" to "Farming Families, Farm Policy, and the Business of Southern Agriculture, 1940-1980." Many of the felloship recipients came together in September for the first fall meeting of the Democracy & Markets forum.

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In August, a New York Times article highlighted the potential link between income inequality and financial crises, drawing on the work of David Moss (Harvard Business School), Margaret Blair (Vanderbilt University Law School), and Richard Freeman (Harvard University, Economics), whose research in this area was developed at Tobin's

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Over the past three decades, the United States has become richer, but significantly more unequal. In 2007, the most affluent 1% of American families received more than 23% of total income for the first time since 1928. While the causes of this dramatic rise in inequality are widely researched, far less is known about its potential effects on our economy, our democracy, and our society. 

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In an April issue of The Economist, an article examines the effects of rising inequality on the reality of the "American dream," and references research from the upcoming Tobin Project conference on the economic, political, and social consequences of rising inequality. 

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The Tobin Project held its second graduate student forum on November 20. The day-long discussion centered on innovative new directions in the study of political economy — in particular, working through the implications of the recent financial crisis.

These interdisciplinary graduate student forums have involved 24 students from the nation’s leading Ph.D. programs, providing unique opportunities to develop and share new research on topics that fall outside of the narrow parameters of current academic discourse.

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