2010 Eleanor Roosevelt Fellow
Rebecca M. Blank is the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs at the United States Department of Commerce, where she oversees the two premier statistical agencies in the United States, the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
In a career that has combined scholarship with government service, Dr. Blank has focused on the interaction among the macro economy, social policy programs, and the behavior and well being of low-income families. For almost 20 years, she has worked to improve the measurement of poverty in the United States and in March 2010, she announced that the Commerce Department is adopting a new Supplemental Poverty Measure that will “provide an alternative lens” to understanding how many Americans are struggling financially. Dr. Blank served as the Robert S. Kerr Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution from 2008–2009. Before this, she was the Dean of Public Policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan (1999–2008), where she was also the Henry Carter Adams Collegiate Professor of Public Policy, and co-directed the National Poverty Center. She served on the President’s Council of Economic Advisers from 1997–1999.
Blank’s book, It Takes a Nation: A New Agenda for Fighting Poverty (Princeton University Press and Russell Sage Foundation, 1997), demonstrated how poverty has become harder to combat; argued for a mix of private and public programs to fight the pervasive and subtle factors leading to poverty; and suggested ways to balance safety-net measures with incentives to work. The book won that year’s Richard A. Lester Prize for Outstanding Book in Labor Economics and Industrial Relations. Her other books include The New World of Welfare (co-edited with Ron Haskins, Brookings Institution Press, 2001), Is the Market Moral? (co-authored with William McGurn, Brookings Press, 2003), Working and Poor (co-edited with Sheldon Danziger and Robert Schoeni, Russell Sage Foundation, 2006), and Insufficient Funds: Savings, Assets, Credit, and Banking among Low-Income Families (co-edited with Michael Barr, Russell Sage Foundation, 2009).