Boyce Dube Folbre Friedman Murray-Close UMass Economics wa Githinji

Faculty support of Occupy Wall Street movement

UMass Amherst Economics Department faculty continue to participate in events and publish information on the Occupy Wall Street movement. The “Occupy” protests started on Wall Street and have spread internationally. Protests have been held locally in Amherst, Boston and Northampton.

UMass Amherst Economics Professor Arindrajit Dube, who is also a research fellow at the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) based in Bonn, discussed the Occupy Wall Street movement with his colleague Marta Murray-Close for the UMass Amherst Department of Economics Echoes alumni newsletter. (Echoes, 12/12/11)

In her Economix blog, Nancy Folbre, UMass Amherst economics professor, says concerns about growing economic inequality that spurred the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement should be the focus of a wider discussion by economists about capitalism and its effects. (New York Times, 11/28/11)

Gerald Friedman participated in an Occupy Wall Street Teach-In at Smith College. His talk can be viewed here. (11/12/11)

More than 350 economists have added their name in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Read their statement and watch a video featuring UMass Amherst Professors James Boyce, Nancy Folbre and Mwangi wa Githinji.

Boyce Ndikumana PERI

Boyce and Ndikumana on The Real News Network

In this The Real News Network interview, James Boyce and Leonce Ndikumana, UMass Amherst economics professors and authors of Africa’s Odious Debts, argue that under international law, debts incurred by dictators should not be enforceable. This video is the first of a three part series. (The Real News Network, 10/24/11)

Boyce Ndikumana

Boyce and Ndikumana publish “Africa’s Odious Debts”

In Africa’s Odious Debts, UMass Amherst economics professors James Boyce and Léonce Ndikumana reveal the shocking fact that, contrary to the popular perception of Africa being a drain on the financial resources of the West, the continent is actually a net creditor to the rest of the world. The extent of capital flight from sub-Saharan Africa is remarkable: more than $700 billion in the past four decades. But Africa’s foreign assets remain private and hidden, while its foreign debts are public, owed by the people of Africa through their governments.

Léonce Ndikumana and James K. Boyce reveal the intimate links between foreign loans and capital flight. More than half of the money borrowed by African governments in recent decades departed in the same year, with a significant portion of it winding up in private accounts at the very banks that provided the loans in the first place. Meanwhile, debt-service payments continue to drain scarce resources from Africa, cutting into funds available for public health and other needs. Controversially, the authors argue that African governments should repudiate these ‘odious debts’ from which their people derived no benefit, and that the international community should assist in this effort.

Join the authors to celebrate the release of Africa’s Odious Debts:

Thursday, November 3 at 5 pm
Amherst Books
8 Main street
Amherst, Massachusetts

Alums Ash Boyce PERI

Economists share $360,000 NSF grant for Environmental Justice research

Michael Ash & James Boyce
University of Massachusetts Amherst economists James K. Boyce and Michael Ash have received a grant of $360,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study Environmental Justice (EJ) in the United States, in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Michigan and the University of Southern California.

“Environmental Justice” looks at unequal access to a clean environment by race and class. President Clinton’s 1994 Executive Order 12898 made EJ a federal priority.

The UMass Amherst team is part of a three-university consortium for research on EJ. Boyce and Ash co-direct the Corporate Toxics Information Project of the Political Economy Research Institute at UMass Amherst.

The other two lead researchers are Paul Mohai of the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan, a pioneer of EJ research and the lead investigator for the project; and Manuel Pastor, Jr., who heads the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity at the University of Southern California (and holds a 1984 Ph.D. in Economics from UMass Amherst).

Boyce, Ash, and their collaborators will use a unique dataset from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ‘Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators’ project (RSEI) to examine the social, economic, and geographic structure of exposure to industrial toxic releases in the United States.

According to Boyce, “The RSEI data give an extraordinary window into both who is on the receiving end of toxic industrial pollution and who is on the sending end. No other data permit this type of analysis. Our research will be useful to environmental justice scholars, community activists, and socially responsible managers and investors.”

Ash, who is also appointed in the Center for Public Policy and Administration, notes, “This research can improve understanding of the dynamics of environmental inequality, with broader impacts in public policy, community health, and corporate environmental performance.”

Boyce and Ash’s Corporate Toxics Information Project (CTIP) publishes the Toxic 100. CTIP emphasizes the use of right-to-know information to improve environmental performance. As Boyce describes it, “Our aim is to move from the ‘right to know’ to the ‘right to clean air and water.’”


Boyce wins Common Heritage Award

James Boyce

James K.  Boyce, UMass Amherst economics professor and director of the program in development, peacebuilding & the environment at the Political Economy Research Institute, has been awarded the Fair Sharing of Common Heritage Award.

This award is presented by Media Freedom Foundation and Project Censored and is given to someone whose written work expresses the principle espoused by the late Alfred Frederick Andersen that every sentient being has the right to a fair share of the material and economic benefits of the Common Heritage Wealth.  This wealth includes the Earth’s natural resources such as land surfaces, sub-surface minerals and fuels; water and air; and cyberspace. 

Boyce has developed the concept of Natural Assets, a new framework for thinking about importance and maintenance of the environmental commons.  This approach expands environmental commons to include not only “pristine” wilderness, but also urban land and clean air and water for populations.  The Natural Assets approach also describes how human activity can build as well as deplete the environmental commons.  Boyce’s concept encompasses four routes to Natural Asset building:  investing in natural capital, democratizing access, rewarding benefits to the community, and sharing the commons.

Boyce has advanced these ideas in numerous publications, including his 2008 article “Is Inequality Bad for the Environment?” for which he won the Award, and by sponsoring the Forum on Social Wealth, by blogging and in public service including work on the Economic and Allocation Advisory Committee of the California Air Resources Board and California Environmental Protection Agency and by serving on the Science and Technical Advisory Committee of the Division of Water Supply Protection (Mass Department of Conservation and Recreation).

Ash Boyce Graduate

Grace Chang receives EPA STAR fellowship

Grace Chang

UMass Amherst Economics Ph.D. student Grace Chang was among 120 students across the U.S. selected for the prestigious STAR (Science to Achieve Results) dissertation fellowship from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA STAR fellowship provides $111,000 of support over three years. Ms. Chang will use the funds to study environmental justice in exposure to industrial toxics in the United States.

Ms. Chang will use a unique new dataset from the Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators (RSEI) project of the EPA to examine the social, economic, temporal, and geographic structure of exposure to industrial toxic releases in the United States.

Ms. Chang states, “My main focus is the health risk affecting low-income people and communities of color that are disproportionately exposed to industrial toxics. My work should be useful to environmental justice scholars, community activists, and socially responsible managers and investors.”

The goal of the research is to improve understanding of the dynamics of neighborhood environmental inequality, with broader impacts in public policy, community health, and corporate environmental performance. Chang works with the Corporate Toxics Information Project based at the Political Economy Research Institute and co-directed by UMass Amherst Professors James K. Boyce and Michael Ash. Ash comments, “Grace has developed a terrific project, and her selection demonstrates EPA’s increased attention to questions of social justice and equity in environmental protection.”

EPA created the STAR fellowship program in 1995 to help the U.S. cultivate outstanding researchers in environmental science, engineering, and policy. STAR fellowships bolster the environmental generation of tomorrow, build a bridge to diverse communities, and boost excellent research and development that advance the protection of human health and the environment.


Boyce shares lessons from Flint, Michigan

James Boyce

In his op-ed, “Letter From Flint, Michigan,” James Boyce, economics professor, explains how Flint transformed from the American dream into a disposable city.  He places the blame not just on General Motors, but also a series of, what he calls, monumental public policy failures:  massive foreign borrowing, the failure to grow Medicare into a nationwide single-payer health care system and the “white flight” to the suburbs. 

What can we learn from Flint’s failures?  According to Boyce, that the public good should never be sacrificed for our own “private goodies.”  And, “When we elevate consumption above citizenship, we imperil not only our democracy, but in the end our economy, too. ” (Truthout, 8/31/10)

Ash Boyce PERI UMass Economics

PERI report, Toxic 100, in USA Today article

Koch Industries, cited last spring as one of the top 10 air polluters in the U.S. in a report issued by the Political Economy Research Institute, is among 2,000 companies that will be reimbursed 80 percent of the cost of health insurance for early retirees, according to the Obama administration. David and Charles Koch, the owners of the company, were reported by The New Yorker to be bankrolling political opponents of Obama, including the “tea party” movement. (USA Today, 8/31/10)

Ash Boyce PERI

PERI report, Toxic 100, cited in The New Yorker

Toxic 100 Air Polluters, a Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) report co-authored by Michael Ash and James Boyce, identifies the top U.S. air polluters among the world’s largest corporations.  This report names Koch Industries among the top ten offenders, a fact cited in a report on the Koch brothers which appeared this week in The New Yorker. (The New Yorker, 8/30/10)

Covert Operations
The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama.
by Jane Mayer

The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation. These views dovetail with the brothers’ corporate interests. In a study released this spring, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute named Koch Industries one of the top ten air polluters in the United States.
Ash Boyce PERI UMass Economics

Ash and Boyce comment on release of Toxic 100 Air Polluters

The latest list of corporate polluters provides data about who is most at risk. (Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images)

 UMass Amherst economics professors and co-directors of PERI’s CTIP (Corporate Toxics Information Project), Michael Ash and James Boyce, discuss the release of  Toxic 100 Air Polluters, which includes the names of the biggest corporate air polluters in the U.S.  This list provides various details on the quantity and toxicity of the chemicals released.  It also includes the percentage of minority and low income people that are being exposed to the toxins.  “People have a right to know about toxic hazards to which they are exposed. Legislators need to understand the effects of pollution on their constituents,” Boyce said in a press release.  Ash agrees noting that by “making this information available, we are building on the achievements of the right-to-know movement… Our goal is to engender public participation in environmental decision making, and to help residents translate the right to know into the right to clean air.” (The Epoch Times, 4/9/2010)