Rivlin, Alice

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RIVLIN, ALICE (Mitchell ; 1931– ), U.S. economist and government official. Born in Philadelphia, Rivlin was raised in Bloomington, Ind., and educated at Bryn Mawr College (B.A. 1952) and Radcliffe College, Harvard University (M.A. 1955; Ph.D. 1958). She had a crowded resume, having served ably in many positions, including several professorships, and numerous leadership positions in various think tanks and in federal government offices.

Rivlin devoted her career to the analysis of public finance and social policy, and particularly to the federal budget. Based mainly at the Brookings Institution, a privately-funded centrist-liberal think tank, her government service began as a consultant to the House Education and Labor Committee in 1961. Rivlin was probably best known as the first director of the Congressional Budget Office (cbo), founded by Congress to provide it with economic information and analysis independent of the executive branch. There she established a tradition of nonpartisan analysis that later earned her criticism from the Reagan administration, but that enabled the cbo to withstand for many years pressures to become a political tool of a congressional majority. During the Clinton administration, as the director of the Office of Management and Budget, Rivlin concentrated largely, and successfully, on reducing the federal deficit. As vice chair of the board of governors at the Federal Reserve, she was involved in monetary policy, and encouraged greater use of electronic processing in the banking system.

Rivlin described her perspective as that of a "fanatical, card-carrying middle-of-the-roader." She articulated her ideas in many articles, mainly in professional journals but also in more popular publications; in the early 1970s she wrote a newspaper column for the Washington Post. Among her many books are: The Role of the Federal Government in Financing Higher Education (1961), Microanalysis of Socioeconomic Systems: A Simulation Study (1961, with Guy Orcutt et al.), Measures of State and Local Fiscal Capacity and Tax Effort (1962, with Selma J. Mushkin), Systematic Thinking for Social Action (1971), Caring for the Disabled Elderly: Who Will Pay? (1988, with Joshua M. Wiener), Reviving the American Dream: The Economy, the States, and the Federal Government (1992), and Restoring Fiscal Sanity: How to Balance the Budget (2004, with Isabel Sawhill).

[Drew Silver (2nd ed.)]