Monthly Archives: December 2010

Robin Kemkes, PhD Student, receives fellowship

Robin Kemkes

Robin Kemkes, an economics Ph.D. student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has received a prestigious Advanced Research Fellowship from the American Councils Title VIII Combined Research and Language Training Program, which supports research in the independent states of the former Soviet Union.  The award is funded by the U.S. Department of State, Title VIII Program for Research and Training on Eastern Europe and Eurasia (Independent States of the Former Soviet Union).  Former Soviet Republics Georgia and Russia went to war in summer 2008 over a breakaway region.

Robin’s doctoral research focuses on equitable and sustainable rural development in the Upper Svaneti region in the former Soviet state of Georgia. The Advanced Research Fellowship will fund fieldwork and advanced study of the Georgian language over a six month period in summer and fall of 2011.  

“Georgia, and Upper Svaneti in particular, are fascinating places. I look forward to working with my research partners there to identify rural development paths that will sustain its rich cultural heritage and diverse natural landscape,” noted Robin. “The United States is invested in Georgia’s future, and it is important that development paths support ethnic stability in its rural regions.”

Kemkes participates in the Environmental Working Group based at the Political Economy Research Institute and led by UMass Amherst Professors James K. Boyce and Michael Ash. Ash said, “Robin has developed a fascinating project, and her selection demonstrates increased attention to questions of environmental and cultural sustainability in economic development.”

Robin already holds a master’s degree in ecological economics (University of Vermont 2008).  She has also received a Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowship for the Summer Workshop in Slavic and East European Languages (SWSEEL) at Indiana University where she studied the Georgian language intensively for eight weeks in summer 2010.

More than 6,000 students, scholars, and researchers have participated in American Councils programs overseas since 1976.  Its activity includes partnership affiliations with many Eurasian institutes and support for U.S. scholars in the former Soviet Union. Research funded by American Councils must “contribute to a body of knowledge enabling the U.S. to better understand the region and formulate effective policies within it.”

Epstein advocates for code of ethics

Gerald Epstein

Gerald Epstein, economics professor and department chair, comments in recent news stories about how the American Economic Association, the world’s largest professional society for economists, is debating whether to adopt a code of ethical standards. The move is coming in response to criticism of many economists who comment in the media or give professional testimony about economic issues without disclosing their personal and financial ties to the industries they are discussing. Epstein and graduate student Jessica Carrick-Hagenbarth recently published a paper that found many of the financial economists who weighed in on new federal regulation of Wall Street didn’t disclose their potential conflicts of interest. (Reuters, 12/20/10; New York Times, 12/30/10; Bloomberg, 12/31/10)

Wolff: Estate Tax Nears Death

Richard Wolff

Richard Wolff, UMass Amherst economics professor emeritus, writes in a column for The Real News Network, that the tax bill just passed by Congress will further widen the gap between the rich and the poor in the United States.  He discusses changes the estate tax, noting that the first $10 million left to heirs will not be assessed an estate tax and anything over $10 million will be assessed at 35 percent- 10 percent less than the under the current law, passed in 2009.

Estate Tax Nears Death
Richard Wolff
December 19, 2010

Estate taxes have been justified and used in countless countries for centuries. Indeed, many of the 50 states in the US continue to impose estate taxes (and/or the slightly different “inheritance taxes”) using the same justification. Basically, the idea is that even the most minimal commitments to democracy and equality of opportunity require that all citizens begin with roughly equal resources and supports. Hard work, talent, and commitment should determine each individual’s successes rather than the wealth that one’s parents did or did not leave behind. So estate taxes were seen as ways to both support the government’s activities and help produce a more level playing field for each generation.

What Obama’s tax bill does is directly contradict all this. It reduces the support for state activities from estate taxes while enhancing the inequality of starting points among our citizens. At a time when the economic crisis and the government’s responses to it already discriminated for the rich and against everyone else, this new tax bill takes that social injustice some steps further.

Folbre: Unemployment rate higher for males

Nancy Folbre

Nancy Folbre, UMass Amherst economics professor, discusses why men have suffered higher levels of unemployment than women in the current recession. Currently, the unemployment rate for males is approximately 10.6% as compared to 8.9% for women. She notes that manufacturing, a male-dominated sector of the economy, has been hit harder with job losses than other female-dominated sectors such as health care and services. (The Real News Network, 12/16/10)


Folbre blogs about the “Mancession”

Nancy Folbre

Nancy Folbre, UMass Amherst economics professor, writes in her weekly Economix blog in the New York Times about how the job losses in the current recession have been much more severe for men than for women. She says one key reason may be that jobs lost in manufacturing, a male-dominated industry, have been much greater than in health and education, sectors dominated by women. This mismatch in job losses has been dubbed the “Mancession” by some observers. An economics columnist takes note of Folbre’s observation and says construction, another male-dominated area of the economy, has also been hard hit. (New York Times, 12/13/10; The Atlantic, December 2010)

Badgett’s research cited in Newsweek

Lee Badgett

A story on whether the fight for gay rights is the contemporary equivalent to the civil rights movement of the 1960s cites a survey done in 2009 by M.V. Lee Badgett, economics professor and director of the Center for Public Policy and Administration, and colleagues in cooperation with the Williams Institute at UCLA. The study found that gays and lesbians are more likely to be poor than affluent, despite the widespread view that most gays are well off economically. (Newsweek, 12/14/10)

Epstein comments on Wall Street bonuses

Gerald Epstein

Gerald Epstein, UMass Amherst economics professor and department chair, comments in an editorial about large bonuses for Wall Street executives and what impact such payments have on the larger economy. Epstein says, “These things don’t add to the pie. They redistribute it – often from the taxpayers to banks and other financial institutions.” (, 12/10/10)