President Obama Nominates Betsey Stevenson to Council of Economic Advisers

On Monday, President Obama announced his intent to appoint Betsey Stevenson, an economist at the University of Michigan focusing on labor, women, and families, to the Council of Economic Advisers. His announcement comes on the heels of his appointment of Jason Furman to succeed Alan Krueger as Chairman of Council of Economic Advisers (CEA). The CEA is charged with offering President Obama objective economic advice to help form domestic and international economic policy.

Dr. Stevenson’s diverse research touches both policy and daily life, and has been widely cited in the news media. While she has written prolifically on a number of subjects, Dr. Stevenson is perhaps best known for her work on the impact of public policy on labor markets, marriage and divorce, women and families, and happiness and well-being.

Dr. Stevenson served as Chief Economist at the Department of Labor from 2010-2011. While there, she worked on ways to reform unemployment insurance laws to expand work-sharing and self-employment assistance. Some of these ideas became law as a part of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012.

More broadly, Dr. Stevenson is an expert on all aspects of how the labor market works—how people search for jobs, how people obtain jobs, and how employers identify qualified candidates. For example, she has found that the internet is actually used most by those who are already employed.

In addition, her research on divorce helped to correct the misperception that divorce rates were steadily rising across America. Instead, she found that divorce rates among the college-educated were declining, and that this group was also delaying marriage and children.

Her research also demonstrated the role policy plays in divorce, including finding a link between divorce laws and domestic violence. In states where divorce can be initiated by just one person and does not require fault, domestic violence was lower, which may occur if women can more easily obtain a divorce. Suicide rates were also found to be lower in these states. Her research was cited by advocates in a recent successful effort to change New York’s divorce laws.

Furthermore, we cited her research when she found that girls’ participation in sports led to increased college attendance and higher wages, as a result of Title IX, which bans sex discrimination against girls and boys in all programs at schools around the country.

Dr. Stevenson wrote of her findings, “Greater opportunities to play sports lead to greater female participation in previously male-dominated occupations, particularly high-skill occupations.” She concluded that, “the experiment designed by Title IX proves that extracurricular activities like sports play an important role in creating the skills that make us so productive.”

She and her partner, Justin Wolfers, have written several papers together on marriage, divorce, and well-being, and also co-author a column for Bloomberg View. They also have two children.

Currently, Dr. Stevenson is an Associate Professor of Public Policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, a position she has held since 2012.  She has held professorships at Princeton and The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and also worked for the Federal Reserve, among other positions. Dr. Stevenson received a B.A. from Wellesley College and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University.

Dr. Stevenson said in a 2011 article in Wharton Magazine, “The point of doing research is to inform the public and to shape public policy. Having economists go between doing in-depth, focused academic research and trying to implement and communicate that research in Washington helps ensure that our research is relevant to the policy debate.”

As a member of the CEA at the White House, Dr. Stevenson will be able to continue to operate at the center of economics and policy, for the betterment of our country. We are thrilled to have her come on board.

Valerie B. Jarrett is a Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama. She oversees the Offices of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs and chairs the White House Council on Women and Girls.
Related Topics: Women, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania
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