Center for American Progress

: The Middle Class At Risk: Economic Insecurity in America Today
Past Event

The Middle Class At Risk: Economic Insecurity in America Today

12:00 AM - 11:59 PM EDT

The Middle Class At Risk: Economic Insecurity in America Today

America’s economy and social safety net once promised secure employment and benefits to millions of Americans. Yet economic insecurity now appears to be rising. Many Americans are expressing uncertainty and anxiety about their financial future, and business and government policies designed to provide economic security are under strain. Although experts have debated the causes and trends, the subject has received little focused attention. To what extent and in what ways is economic insecurity rising? Why? And what are the right policy responses?

The Social Science Research Council asked some of America’s top social scientists, legal scholars, and historians to examine and debate these questions, using their own research to speak to citizens and policymakers. Several of those experts will present their findings at this forum.

Graciela Chichilnisky, UNESCO Chair of Mathematics and Economics, Professor of Statistics at Columbia University
Jacob S. Hacker, Peter Strauss Family Assistant Professor of Political Science at Yale University
Elisabeth Jacobs, Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology at Harvard University
Presenting essay with Katherine S. Newman, Professor of Sociology and International Affairs at Princeton University
Paul Krugman, New York Times Columnist, Professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton University
Elizabeth Warren, Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law at Harvard University

Moderated by:
Robert Gordon, Senior Vice President for Economic Policy, Center for American Progress

Thursday, October 20, 2005
Program: 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM
Light refreshments will be served.
Admission is free.

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Middle Class Progress, by Christian Weller, October 20, 2005
Is the typical middle-class family doing better today than they were 25 years ago


Graciela Chichilnisky holds the UNESCO Chair of Mathematics and Economics and is a Professor of Statistics at Columbia University. She is Director of Columbia’s Center for Risk Management (CCRM) and created Columbia’s Program on Information and Resources (PIR). She introduced the concept of Basic Needs, which was adopted by 150 countries in the United Nations Earth Summit and appears in UN Agenda 21 as the central element of their strategies for sustainable development. She also introduced new financial instruments to deal with environmental risks, Catastrophe Bundles. At an invited address in the 1995 annual meeting of the World Bank, she proposed the global trading of carbon emissions, which became part of the Kyoto Protocol adopted by 166 nations in December 1997, and advocated the creation of an International Bank for Environmental Settlements to regulate this. A tenured professor at Columbia since 1979, she was from 1985-90 Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of FITEL, a financial telecommunications corporation active in New York, London and Tokyo, and more recently of Cross Border Exchange, a global financial systems company in New York. She has served as advisor to many international organizations, including the United Nations Economics Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, the United Nations and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), in the areas of international economics and environmental policy. Chichilnisky is a former member of the Presidential Cabinet of the Central Bank of Argentina, an active consultant to the United Nations on international trade issues and the global financial industry on derivatives and reinsurance, and a Lead Author of the Intergovernmental Program on Climate Change (IPCC). The author of twelve books and some 200 scientific articles published in the preeminent academic journals covering economics, finance and mathematics, Professor Chichilnisky holds two Ph.D. degrees from the University of California at Berkeley. Her doctorates in Mathematics and Economics were awarded respectively in 1971 and 1976. A native of Argentina, Professor Chichilnisky is a U.S. citizen, the mother of two children, and a resident of New York City.

Dr. Jacob S. Hacker (Ph.D., Yale University, 2000) is Peter Strauss Family Assistant Professor of Political Science and Resident Fellow of the Institution for Social and Policy Studies. He is also a Fellow at the New America Foundation, a participant in the American Political Science Association’s Task Force on Inequality and American Democracy, a member of the National Academy of Social Insurance, and former Junior Fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows. A political scientist who studies health and social policy, he is the author of two books: The Road to Nowhere: The Genesis of President Clinton’s Plan for Health Security (Princeton University Press, 1997), which was co-winner of the 1997 Louis Brownlow Book Award of the National Academy of Public Administration; and The Divided Welfare State: The Battle over Public and Private Social Benefits in the United States (Cambridge University Press, 2002), which, as a dissertation, received prizes from the American Political Science Association, the Association of Public Policy Analysis and Management, and the National Academy of Social Insurance. His articles and opinion pieces have appeared in the American Political Science Review; American Prospect; Boston Globe; British Journal of Political Science; Perspectives on Politics; Politics and Society; Studies in American Political Development; the International Journal of Social Welfare; the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law; the New Republic; the New York Times; the Nation; the Los Angeles Times; the Boston Globe; and the Washington Post. He is currently working on a book about growing economic insecurity, The Great Risk Shift and an edited volume on the politics of inequality and poverty in the United States. He also co-authored book on American democracy that has just been released, Off Center: The Republican Revolution and the Erosion of American Democracy.

Elisabeth Jacobs is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at Harvard University and a Doctoral Fellow in the Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality and Social Policy. Her research interests embrace a wide array of questions addressing the issue of economic security: Do Americans face more economic risk today than they have in the past? If so, why, and what are the consequences of this increased risk burden for families, communities, and the polity? How have social welfare policy decisions over the last half-century contributed to these trends? Jacobs has conducted research and written on a wide variety of topics, including public attitudes to economic inequality and redistributive policy; the impact of neighborhoods on individuals’ socio-economic outcomes and political participation; housing policy; unemployment insurance (with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities); and the work/family balance for low-income women transitioning on and off of TANF in the years following the 1996 welfare reform (with the Three-City Study on Welfare, Children and Families). In tandem with her academic work, Jacobs is a Co-Founder and Co-Director of New Vision, a domestic policy think tank that seeks to engage the next generation of scholars in developing the policy proposals and broader visions that will be needed to create widespread opportunity and security in the next century. Prior to beginning graduate work at Harvard, Jacobs was a Research Associate for the Poverty Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, a New York City-based public interest law center combining public education, litigation, and policy advocacy in order to effect social change. She has been active on political campaigns at local, state and national levels, and previously served on the Board of Directors of Dwight Hall, the Center for Public Service and Social Justice at Yale. Jacobs has been awarded numerous grants and fellowships, including the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, the Jacob K. Javits Graduate Fellowship, and the President’s Public Service Fellowship at Yale University. She graduated Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa from Yale University.

Dr. Paul Krugman is the author or editor of dozens of books and several hundred articles, primarily about international trade and international finance, and is also nationally known for his twice-weekly columns in The New York Times and his monthly columns in Fortune Magazine and Slate . He was the Ford International Professor of International Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has served on the U.S. Council of Economic Advisers. He was the recipient of the 1991 John Bates Clark Medal, an award given every two years by the American Economic Association to an economist under 40. Dr. Krugman received his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Dr. Elizabeth Warren is the Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law at Harvard University. She earned her Bachelors of Science degree from the University of Houston and her Juris Doctor from Rutgers University. Professor Warren has written more than fifty highly acclaimed books, chapters, and articles on a range of topics. She has written highly acclaimed academic books, The Fragile Middle Class: Americans in Debt, co-authored by Dr. Teresa Sullivan and Professor Jay Westbrook, which received the Financial Lawyers of America Prize; and As We Forgive Our Debtors, which was also co-authored with Dr. Sullivan and Professor Westbrook and received both the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award and a commendation from the American Sociological Association. She has co-authored three leading casebooks in the bankruptcy and commercial law field, and she is also a principal investigator of a number of empirical students on commercial law. Her most recent works, first The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers and Fathers Are Going Broke, and then the recently-released All Your Worth , discuss the economics of survival in the middle class with a much wider audience. Professor Warren was named by the National Law Journal as one of the Fifty Most Influential Women Attorneys. She was Chief Adviser to the National Bankruptcy Review Commission, where she provided a lengthy report to Congress on recommendations for improving the bankruptcy system. Chief Justice Rehnquist appointed Professor Warren to the Judicial Education Committee of the Federal Judicial Center from 1990-1999. Currently, she serves on the Executive Boards of the Council of the ALI and the National Bankruptcy Conference.

Robert Gordon is the Senior Vice President for Economic Policy at the Center for American Progress. Before joining the Center, Robert was the Domestic Policy Director for the Kerry-Edwards campaign, where he served as the campaign’s designee on the Democratic platform drafting committee. Previously, Robert worked for Senator John Edwards, first as his Judiciary Committee Counsel and Legislative Director in the Senate, then as the Policy Director for his presidential campaign. Prior to his work on Capitol Hill, Robert was a law clerk for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and a Skadden Fellow at the Juvenile Rights Division of the Legal Aid Society in New York City, where he represented children in abuse and neglect proceedings. Robert also served in the Clinton White House as an aide to the National Economic Council and the Office of National Service, where he helped craft the legislation creating AmeriCorps. Robert graduated from Harvard College with highest honors and from Yale Law School. He is also a nonresident Fellow at the Brookings Institution.