Saturday, September 8, 2012


I spent yesterday morning taking part in a panel on US active labor market programs put on by the American Enterprise Institute in DC. This is the first time I have ever done a sort of think tank policy "event" - all the AEI folks called it the "event" - in my career.  It was more fun than I expected.

You can watch videos of the event at the AEI web page and on the C-Span (another first for me) web page. AEI excerpted my comments comparing the cost information available at Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor, where I worked in high school, with that typically available about job training programs in a separate video snippet. This made me happy because my Farrell's reference got cut by the editors of the WIA book chapter I posted about a few days ago.

Not counting moderators, the following people spoke: Steve Davis, Larry Katz, Harry Holzer, me, Gary Burtless, Paul Decker, Betsey Stevenson, and Ken Troske. Five speakers wore dark suits, two, Larry and Gary, wore summery light suits, and yours truly, who does not own a suit jacket, wore a short-sleeve dress shirt and a tie. I am not sure what model explains the sartorial variation.

I was impressed that AEI, which is usually labeled center-right, put on a panel where most of the speakers were democrats. Indeed, three of the eight speakers are former chief economists at DOL under democrat presidents: Katz, Holzer and Stevenson. Perhaps the explanation is that, at the end of the day, the speakers agreed on nearly every point. This is one of those areas where, at least for marginal changes, it is the economists versus the politicians and (more deeply) the self-interested stakeholders.

Regular readers know  that I pay attention to social networks. Among the panelists, there are many connections: Ken and I went to college and grad school together. Paul and I have known each other for years; we met when we were both consulting on program evaluations in Canada. These days, he is occasionally my boss when I consult for Mathematica. Steve Davis was on Ken's dissertation committee at Chicago and, as I recall, employed Ken as a research assistant. Harry and I are working on a paper together. Betsey is now my colleague at Michigan. Oh, and the AEI moderator for my panel worked at the NY Fed with one of my graduate students. Academic economics is a small world., particularly once you condition on being interested in job training programs.

The lunch at AEI was as good as I remembered from the one other time I had been there, back in my Maryland days, despite being surprisingly healthy.

It will interesting to see if anything comes of this effort.


G Brmlburt said...

Actually, I wore a summer-weight light jacket, dark slacks, and a tie. I think someone at AEI asked me to look presentable on TV. What I wore filled the bill, I thought, but I mainly watch movies and classic old sit-coms on TV, so I would never claim to be expert.

- Gary Burtless

don said...

A short sleeve shirt and a tie? Oh, Jeff, you came so close to ending up as an engineer.