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M.I.T. Urban Economist Frank Levy to Present First Annual Saffran Lecture

For Immediate Release: September 28, 2007
Contact: Marsha Nishi Mullan

M.I.T. Urban Economist Frank Levy
to Present First Annual Saffran Lecture at Swarthmore

Frank Levy, Daniel Rose Professor of Urban Economics in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at M.I.T., will present the first annual Bernie Saffran Lecture at Swarthmore College on Thursday, Nov. 15, at 7:30 p.m. in the Science Center, Room 101. His talk, "Institutions and Income Inequality in 20th-Century America," is free and open to the public.

A key feature of Post-World War II America was mass upward mobility in which rising productivity gains translated into income gains for most people. In recent years, mass upward mobility has stalled as productivity gains have translated into large income gains for a relatively small fraction of the population. Most economists argue that this shift is the result of technology and trade that favor more educated labor. Dr. Levy will argue that while technology and trade are important in this shift, an equally important factor is the collapse of institutions developed in the Great Depression that helped to insure the income from productivity gains would be broadly distributed. In today's economy, he will argue, new institutions will be needed to restore the mass upward mobility that is central to the American experience.

Dr. Levy's research focuses on the interactions among technology, the nature of work, income levels, and income inequality. His 2005 book, The New Division of Labor, co-authored with Richard J. Murnane, describes the impact of computers and offshoring on available jobs in the economy and the skills that those jobs require. His subsequent work includes studies of the offshoring of radiologist jobs (with Ari Goelman and Kyoung-Hee Yu), a study of attempts to control unnecessary medical imaging, and an examination of the declining role of political institutions in reducing income inequality (with Peter Temin).

This lecture honors the memory of Bernie Saffran, who taught and mentored generations of Swarthmore students until his sudden death in 2004. He was the Franklin and Betty Barr Professor of Economics, served as Economics Department chair from 1978 to 1983, and was actively involved in teaching and faculty governance at the time of his death.

Professor Saffran was widely known in the economics profession as the author of the regular column "Recommendations for Further Reading" in the Journal of Economic Perspectives; the column highlighted articles on an astonishing range of topics-related, but not limited, to economics and reflected Saffran's own wide-ranging interests. Before coming to Swarthmore, he taught at the University of California at Berkeley, and had also been a Senior Staff Economist for the Council of Economic Advisors and a consultant to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Treasury Department, and the Senate Budget Committee.

Professor Saffran's contributions to the College community grew out of his excellence as a teacher, colleague, and mentor. He combined intellectual rigor and challenge with great personal warmth and generosity which led students, long after leaving Swarthmore, to think of him as a guide and friend. He made significant contributions to College governance and had a particular interest in mentoring junior faculty, both within and outside of the Economics Department.

This inaugural lecture is the first in what will be an annual event, and it is anticipated that, for many years to come, the speaker will be a former student or friend of Professor Saffran's.



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