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Launched on November 15, 2013, the Washington Center for Equitable Growth (WCEG) is a research and grantmaking organization chiefly concerned with reducing “economic inequality in the United States.” By WCEG's telling, ever since the Reagan administration such inequality “has returned to levels last seen in the 1920s,” putting the America “in the top quarter of the world’s most unequal countries.” This trend “may have broad social and economic effects,” says WCEG, “by reducing stable demand for goods and services, dampening entrepreneurialism, undermining the inclusiveness and responsiveness of political and economic institutions, limiting access to education, and stunting individual development.”
Meanwhile, WCEG asserts, economic mobility in the U.S.—defined as “a child’s likelihood to occupy a different position on the income ladder than his or her parents did”—has fallen “well behind [that of] Canada, Britain, and other advanced economies.”
WCEG's major objective is to commission research designed to determine what “set of government policies” and “structural changes in the U.S. economy” might best “promote more equitable growth,” and to persuade lawmakers to use such research as an empirical basis for legislation and public policy.
Each year, WCEG awards grants—mostly in the range of $25,000 to $125,000 apiece—to researchers whose work:
considers “the effects of public policies on both economic growth and inequality”;
studies how the distribution of income “affect[s] consumption and saving decisions”;
examines how inequality “impacts the development of entrepreneurs”;
explores “the relationship between inequality and the quality of socio-political institutions”; and
studies how inequality affects such variables as “mobility, educational outcomes, non-cognitive abilities, and the ability of individuals to match their skills and talent to appropriate occupations.”
A key member of WCEG’s Steering Committee is Laura D’Andrea Tyson, currently a professor at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business. During Bill Clinton's first term as president, Tyson served as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers (1993-95) and director of the National Economic Council (1995-96). More recently, she has been a member of President Barack Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, Obama's Economic Recovery Advisory Board, and the U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Policy Board (also under Obama).
Other Steering Committee members include such notables as:
Melody Barnes, who also chairs the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions, sits on the directors' board of the Marguerite Casey Foundation, and served as director of the White House Domestic Policy Council during President Obama's first term; and
Alan S. Blinder, a Princeton University professor of economics and public affairs, a board of directors member with the Council on Foreign Relations, and formerly a member of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers.
WCEG's Research Advisory Board consists of more than two-dozen academics and experts tasked with helping to inform the organization's research and grantmaking activities. The most prominent of these members is Robert Reich, former U.S. Labor Secretary under President Bill Clinton. Other Research Advisory Board members include several professors of economics, along with professors in such diverse disciplines as law, public policy, African American studies, political science, sociology, business administration, finance, and international and public affairs. The Board also includes a member of the Canadian Parliament.
The author of WCEG's online blog, titled "The Equitablog," is Brad DeLong, who earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1987. DeLong is currently a professor of economics at UC Berkeley and served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury under President Bill Clinton (from 1993-95).
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