Barry Bluestone

Barry Bluestone is the Stearns Trustee Professor of Political Economy and Director of the Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University.

Recent Articles

Job Unfair

The latest report from the U.S. Department of Labor shows that unemployment shot up to 6.4 percent in June, the highest rate in nine years. But an even more chilling statistic is that for 24 months (and counting), employment is lower than it was one year before. The result has been the longest private-sector employment slump since the Great Depression. Beginning in February 2001, the month after George W. Bush took over the White House, the economy has shed 2.6 million jobs -- equivalent to 93,000 workers joining the unemployment rolls each month. What is especially surprising is that these job losses keeps occurring even as the economy is growing. We aren't experiencing a "jobless recovery" -- more accurately, this is a " jobloss recovery." From the end of the third quarter of 2001 through the end of the first quarter of this year, real gross domestic product has increased by a total of 4 percent, almost exactly the same amount as during the same interval following the last recession...

Rewarding Work: Feasible Antipoverty Policy

A higher minimum wage and the earned income tax credit fit like puzzle pieces, each compensating for the other's flaws. Together they are our best bet to fight poverty.

V irtually all economists who have studied the changing income distribution have confirmed what nearly everyone else knows. For most Americans, living standards are stagnating and becoming more unstable. For the bottom half, income is falling. And the prime culprit is not shifts in family values or the work ethic, or even changes in taxes and social benefits. Most of the problem is the erosion of wage and salary income. The causes are multiple [see Bluestone, " The Inequality Express ," TAP , Winter 1995], but there are proven methods for cushioning the impact by raising incomes at the bottom and providing "wage insurance" for those at risk. Chief among these are the minimum wage and the earned income tax credit (EITC). The two fit together like jigsaw puzzle pieces. Each has an inherent weakness—but the weakness in one is precisely the strength of the other. The problem is that the real value of the minimum wage is shrinking and the EITC is under attack. THE FATE OF AMERICAN...

Controversy: Can't We Grow Faster?

Continuing the debate from "The Speed Limit," by Alan S. Blinder, and "Why We Can Grow Faster," by Barry Bluestone and Bennett Harrison (September-October 1997).

Continuing the debate from " The Speed Limit ," by Alan S. Blinder, and " Why We Can Grow Faster ," by Barry Bluestone and Bennett Harrison (September-October 1997). Dear Alan : In your recent article [" The Speed Limit : Fact and Fancy in the Growth Debate," TAP , September-October 1997], we very much appreciate your modest, wonderfully humorous, and clearly stated reasoning against betting too heavily on faster growth. We share with you the view that the more capital-friendly tax and regulatory policies advocated by the right (and, increasingly, by the center as well) will not cause the economy to grow faster, in either the short or long run, and would only serve to make the distribution of income between labor and capital even more unequal than it is already. As you will see in this letter, we also share other points of concurrence. But we apparently have an honest disagreement on the central point. We see many signs of a higher potential growth rate; you see growth continuing at...

Why We Can Grow Faster

F rom the early-nineteenth-century introduction of steam power through the dawning of the age of the microchip in the post-World War II era, real economic growth in America averaged 3.8 percent per year. That meant economic output doubled roughly every 19 years. Then after the 1970s, growth collapsed. During the 1980s, growth averaged just 2.7 percent per year and since 1989 only about 2 percent. At that rate, it will take nearly 36 years for gross domestic product (GDP) to double again. Despite this performance at well below historical trend rates, many mainstream economists and the journalists who follow them have concluded that the new lower growth rate is inevitable and more or less permanent. Economist Paul Krugman suggests that we now live in an "age of diminished expectations" and we had better get used to it. The Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) forecasts 2.3 percent growth through 2002. Generally, both the Federal Reserve Board and the Congressional Budget Office agree with...