Jared Bernstein

Jared Bernstein is an economist and senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. He was formerly chief economist to Vice President Joe Biden and a member of President Barack Obama’s economics team.


Recent Articles

Economic Casualties

F or the first time in a decade, our economy is in recession. It's not official yet--the group that dates recessions doesn't act until after the fact--but there's little doubt that we're in the midst of a downturn. The tragedy of September 11 didn't sink the economy; it was already listing badly. But the terrorist attacks will undoubtedly extend its length and depth. Low-income working families have always been the least insulated from market forces. When the economy sneezes, they get pneumonia. It's been a while since we've had to think about how to help these families get through a period like this, and a lot has changed. For the first time in decades, the full-employment economy of the late 1990s brought real wage gains for the lowest-paid workers. The safety net also changed a lot, in some cases intentionally (welfare reform) and in some cases owing to neglect (unemployment insurance). One of the most notable trends--the millions of low-income mothers who left welfare for work--...

Controversy: The Black-White Test Score Gap

The question of persistent racial differences in tested cognitive ability has long been politically awkward for liberals. In "America's Next Achievement Test," which appeared in our September-October 1998 issue, Christopher Jencks and Meredith Phillips confronted that awkwardness, proposing that closing the black-white test score gap could possibly "do more to promote racial equality than any other strategy that commands broad political support." Drawing on a range of evidence, Jencks and Phillips demonstrated that because the large gap between blacks and whites on tests of cognitive skills has narrowed in recent years, it must be to a significant extent malleable. They also proposed that changing parenting practices and making a greater social investment in early cognitive development were among the most promising avenues for narrowing the gap still further in the future. Finally, in a significant revision of what Jencks had found some 25 years earlier, the authors concluded that...

Two Cheers for the EITC

I like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) a lot. I also really like brownies with gobs of vanilla ice cream and hot fudge. But I don't have them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The EITC--a refundable tax credit that subsidizes the wages of low-income workers--is everyone's darling. New Democrats love it. President Clinton expanded it significantly in his first budget and recently proposed another expansion. Almost every economist willing to use tax policy to help low-income families supports it. Even the right is on board. When congressional Republicans wanted to delay EITC payments to help make their budget numbers add up, candidate George W. Bush (still in compassionate mode) went after them with vigor for trying to balance the budget "on the backs of the poor." And in recent testimony around a proposed minimum wage increase, House Republicans were falling all over each other to heap praise on the EITC as a far better alternative (though none was proposing to increase it). But is...