Blank, Rebecca M. 1955–
Blank, Rebecca M. 1955–
Born September 19, 1955. Education: University of Minnesota, B.S. (summa cum laude), 1976; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ph.D., 1983.
Educator. Data Resources, Inc., Chicago, IL, consultant and educational coordinator; Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, assistant professor of economics and public affairs, 1983-89; Northwestern University, Chicago, associate professor, 1989-94, professor of economics, 1994-99, director of the Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research, 1996-97; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Henry Carter Adams Collegiate Professor of Public Policy and professor of economics, 1999—, Joan and Sanford Weill Dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, 1997-2007, codirector of the National Poverty Center, 2002—. Visiting fellow at the University of Wisconsin—Madison's department of economics and Institute for Research on Poverty; visiting assistant professor of economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1988-89; President's Council of Economic Advisers, 1989-90, 1997-99; Robert V. Kerr visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, 2007-08; National Bureau of Economic Research, faculty affiliate.
National Academies of Sciences (lifetime national associate, 2004), American Academy of Arts of Sciences (fellow, 2005), Society of Labor Economists (fellow, 2006), Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management, American Economic Association, Midwest Economic Association.
Richard A. Lester Prize for the Outstanding Book in Labor Economics and Industrial Relations, Princeton University, 1997, for It Takes a Nation.
Disaggregating the Effects of Economic Growth on the Distribution of Income, University of Wisconsin—Madison (Madison, WI), 1985.
How Important Is Welfare Dependence?, University of Wisconsin—Madison (Madison, WI), 1986.
The Effect of Medical Need on AFDC and Medicaid Participation, University of Wisconsin—Madison (Madison, WI), 1987.
Do Justice: Linking Christian Faith and Modern Economic Life, United Church Press (Cleveland, OH), 1992.
(Editor) Social Protection versus Economic Flexibility: Is There a Trade-off?, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1994.
It Takes a Nation: A New Agenda for Fighting Poverty, Russell Sage Foundation (New York, NY), 1997.
(Editor, with David E. Card) Finding Jobs: Work and Welfare Reform, Russell Sage Foundation (New York, NY), 2000.
(With David T. Ellwood) A Working Nation: Workers, Work, and Government in the New Economy, Russell Sage Foundation (New York, NY), 2000.
(Editor, with Ron Haskins) The New World of Welfare, Brookings Institution Press (Washington, DC), 2001.
(With William McGurn) Is the Market Moral? A Dialogue on Religion, Economics, and Justice, Brookings Institution Press (Washington, DC), 2004.
(Editor, with Marilyn Dabady and Constance F. Citro) Measuring Racial Discrimination, National Academies Press (Washington, DC), 2004.
(Editor, with Sheldon H. Danziger and Robert F. Schoeni) Working and Poor: How Economic and Policy Changes Are Affecting Low-Wage Workers, Russell Sage Foundation (New York, NY), 2006.
Contributor to journals and periodicals, including Public Policy and the Income Distribution, Economists' Voice, International Regional Science Review, Journal of Institutional Comparisons, American Economic Review, Review of Social Economy, Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Journal of Economic Literature, Labour Economics, Canadian Public Policy, Journal of Economic Perspectives, Research in Labor Economics, American Prospect, Journal of Health Economics, Journal of Human Resources, Journal of Population Economics, Chronicle of Higher Education, Quarterly Journal of Economics, Industrial and Labor Relations Review, International Journal of Social Economics, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Journal of Economic Education, Economica, Detroit Free Press, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal, Newsday, New Economy, and Journal of Labour Economics.
Rebecca M. Blank earned a Ph.D. in 1983 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and entered a long career in academia. She lectured at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University, and Northwestern University before becoming the Henry Carter Adams Collegiate Professor of Public Policy and a professor of economics at the University of Michigan. She also served as the Joan and Sanford Weill Dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy from 1997 to 2007. Blank has been a member of the President's Council of Economic Advisers and contributes widely to academic journals, books, and periodicals.
Blank published It Takes a Nation: A New Agenda for Fighting Poverty in 1997. The book, written to help influence the welfare debate in Congress in the late 1990s by bringing in a different perspective and set of suggestions, criticizes welfare policies of previous administrations and gives her own tweaks and fixes to policy at the time of publication. Theda Skocpol, writing in the Atlantic Monthly, noted that "although she deftly synthesizes decades of academic research, her book will, predictably, never achieve even a fraction of the political influence attained by Charles Murray's factually sloppy 1984 manifesto, Losing Ground." Skocpol concluded that "Blank and other poverty researchers are having a hard time weaning themselves from the old welfare programs. They still want to go back and tinker with the Personal Responsibility Act of 1996. But the American people will not accept elaborate benefits or services restricted to some very poor parents in an era when so many working families are struggling with low wages, dwindling or absent health benefits, and inadequate child-care arrangements. Compassionate policies toward the poor await the wider solidarity of a new politics of social and economic security—the ground of the next liberalism."
Michelle Weihmann, writing in the Monthly Labor Review, mentioned that "Blank thoroughly discusses why the economic expansions of the 1980s and the 1990s have not solved the poverty problem." Weihmann suggested that It Takes a Nation "would be useful to policymakers, administrators, and those—like myself—who, because of a lack of broad knowledge regarding our country's welfare policy, feel incapable of drawing a conclusion about the benefits of recent welfare reform initiatives." Lawrence M. Mead, writing in the American Political Science Review, found the book to be "clearly written" and "solidly documented." Mead noted, however, that in the conclusion, "Blank argues that only the entire community, not just government, can fend disadvantaged teenagers off from ruinous early pregnancy and school failure. This suggests that the innermost solution to poverty is not changes to benefits and incentives but the reconstruction of social authority in ghetto areas. That is a task mainly for politicians and public administrators, and how to do it ought now to be the main subject of antipoverty research. Because of its overtures in these directions, Blank's argument sometimes seems like a butterfly struggling to escape from the chrysalis of economics into the wider fields of statecraft."
Robert A. Moffitt, writing in the Industrial and Labor Relations Review, while noting the lack of full-length books on the topic of poverty, commented that "Blank, one of the leading economic analysts of poverty and welfare in the United States, has written a volume on this subject that also is aimed at educating the general public and policy-makers about these issues, but with more detailed discussions of the research evidence than the Ellwood volume. Blank's book will be a nice addition to the bookshelf of any practitioner or scholar who is interested in welfare and poverty." Stephen E. Condrey, writing in the Public Administration Review, found that in the book, "Blank provides a multifaceted view of poverty, its determinants, and prospects for its amelioration." However, he noted that "the author is overly modest in outlining her policy agenda, limiting this section to a scant few pages of the text." Condrey concluded that "It Takes a Nation is an essential reference for practitioners involved in administering social welfare programs. It should also prove to be a valuable main or supplemental text for a variety of undergraduate or graduate public policy courses." Robert A. Margo, reviewing the book in the Southern Economic Journal, said that "the book's tone is that of a moral crusade, as much as one might ever expect from a social scientist. Blank seems to believe that knowing the facts can improve public policy, a position that some readers will regard as incomplete, if not naive. I do not think Blank is naive, but I do think the book would have benefited from greater attention to political economy." Margo concluded that "these criticisms are minor, however. I regularly teach an undergraduate course on poverty and discrimination. Blank's book will go immediately to the top of my reading list."
In 2000 Blank authored A Working Nation: Workers, Work, and Government in the New Economy with David T. Ellwood. Organized by the Aspen Institute, the book was written in an attempt to find a middle ground in the debate on the widening of the rich-poor divide in the United States. Horst Brand, writing in the Monthly Labor Review, remarked that "A Working Nation is a well-conceived summary and analysis of key problems facing a large proportion of working people and their families. These problems have been in the forefront of concern of labor economists and the Department of Labor over the past four decades. It is a good thing that they also are kept in the forefront of public attention, such as this volume will help ensure." Daniel J.B. Mitchell, writing in the Industrial and Labor Relations Review, pointed out that "all the chapters' five authors write from an economics perspective," adding that "the book could have benefited from the balance that would have been provided by inserting a political scientist—and maybe a historian—into the mix. A political scientist could have provided insights into how policy-makers perceive the various issues reviewed and what their responses might be. A historian could have noted that issues such as how to provide health insurance to workers or what to do about poverty pre-date the 1970s. However, despite the omissions, Chapters one and two could be useful additions to syllabi of introductory labor markets courses."
With William McGurn, Blank published Is the Market Moral? A Dialogue on Religion, Economics, and Justice in 2004. The authors take opposing sides in arguing, not the function of market forces, but rather, their fairness and morality. Doug Bandow, writing in the Cato Journal, commented that "Blank is a critic, but a well-informed one. As an academic economist she suffers none of the illusions held by those on the utopian left." Gerald F. Vaughn, reviewing the book in the Journal of Economic Issues, observed that "both authors are exceptional thinkers and writers," adding that "Blank and McGurn do an excellent job as far as they go in a short book. The next step for them and/or other thinkers and writers on this subject is to go beyond dialogue and come up with better standards or criteria, objective or even subjective, for assessing or measuring morality in the market." Vaughn pondered: "Seldom does one read a book on economics so well thought out and well written that it can treat a complex subject this thoroughly and understandably in only 151 pages."
Blank also edited Measuring Racial Discrimination in 2004 with Marilyn Dabady and Constance F. Citro. The book looks at the various ways in which discrimination, primarily racial, can be measured and the difficulties faced in making these estimations. A contributor to Black Issues in Higher Education found that "the book conducts a thorough evaluation of current methodologies for a wide range of circumstances in which racial discrimination may occur." Devah Pager, writing in Social Forces, remarked that "although focused on racial discrimination (primarily against African Americans), the insights of this book can be readily applied to the study of discrimination more broadly." Pager concluded, however, that "while useful to have a roadmap for future development in the field, this volume is likely to have far more of an impact on research practitioners and teachers, for whom this state-of-the-art handbook of methods for measuring racial discrimination will be a treasured resource."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Journal of Sociology, January, 1998, Nancy A. Denton, review of It Takes a Nation: A New Agenda for Fighting Poverty, p. 1132; September, 2001, Chris Tilly, review of A Working Nation: Workers, Work, and Government in the New Economy, p. 507.
American Political Science Review, December, 1997, Lawrence M. Mead, review of It Takes a Nation, p. 960.
Atlantic Monthly, April, 1997, Theda Skocpol, review of It Takes a Nation, p. 118.
Black Issues in Higher Education, August 26, 2004, review of Measuring Racial Discrimination, p. 42.
Cato Journal, March 22, 2005, Doug Bandow, review of Is the Market Moral? A Dialogue on Religion, Economics, and Justice, p. 423.
Choice, April, 1998, review of It Takes a Nation, p. 1458; July 1, 2002, D.S. Pierson, review of The New World of Welfare, p. 1999; April, 2005, A.A. Hodge, review of Measuring Racial Discrimination, p. 1479; September, 2007, L.M. Dickson, review of Working and Poor: How Economic and Policy Changes Are Affecting Low-Wage Workers, p. 149.
Commonweal, October 8, 2004, Daniel Finn, review of Is the Market Moral?, p. 23.
Contemporary Sociology, November, 2002, Vicky Albert, review of The New World of Welfare, p. 706; January, 2006, Lincoln Quillian, review of Measuring Racial Discrimination, p. 88.
Economist, April 7, 2001, review of A Working Nation, p. 118.
First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life, October, 2004, review of Is the Market Moral?, p. 74.
Industrial and Labor Relations Review, October, 1998, Robert A. Moffitt, review of It Takes a Nation, p. 141; January, 2002, Daniel J.B. Mitchell, review of A Working Nation, p. 355.
Journal of Economic History, June, 2001, Thomas N. Maloney, review of Finding Jobs: Work and Welfare Reform, p. 557.
Journal of Economic Issues, March, 2005, Gerald F. Vaughn, review of Is the Market Moral?, p. 295.
Journal of Economic Literature, March, 1995, Robert M. Hutchens, review of Social Protection versus Economic Flexibility: Is There a Trade-Off?, p. 242; June, 1997, review of It Takes a Nation, p. 866; December, 1997, Harry J. Holzer, review of It Takes a Nation, p. 2069; June, 2002, review of The New World of Welfare, p. 633; December, 2003, Sanders Korenman, review of The New World of Welfare, p. 1303.
Journal of Economic Perspectives, spring, 2000, "Fighting Poverty: Lessons from Recent U.S. History."
Journal of Policy Analysis & Management, summer, 1998, LaDonna A. Pavetti, review of It Takes a Nation.
Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, spring, 1998, Ronald Paul Hill, review of It Takes a Nation.
Journal of Religion, January, 2006, Bruce P. Rittenhouse, review of Is the Market Moral?, p. 133.
Labor Studies Journal, spring, 1997, Ellen Mutari, review of Social Protection versus Economic Flexibility.
Monthly Labor Review, December, 1998, Michelle Weihmann, review of It Takes a Nation, p. 57; September, 2001, Horst Brand, review of A Working Nation, p. 34.
Population Studies, March, 1998, Stephen P. Jenkins, review of It Takes a Nation, p. 117.
Public Administration Review, March, 2000, review of It Takes a Nation, p. 191; May, 2001, Stephen E. Condrey, review of It Takes a Nation, p. 375.
Reference & Research Book News, August, 2004, review of Is the Market Moral?, p. 19.
Social Forces, June, 2005, Devah Pager, review of Measuring Racial Discrimination, p. 1780.
Social Service Review, March, 2006, review of Measuring Racial Discrimination, p. 211.
Southern Economic Journal, October, 1997, Robert A. Margo, review of It Takes a Nation, p. 594.
Brookings Institute Web site,http://www.brookings.edu/ (April 11, 2008), author profile.
University of Michigan, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy Web site,http://www.fordschool.umich.edu/ (April 11, 2008), author profile.