Academic journal article Human Ecology

Washington Wizard: PAM Professor Advises the Obama Administration

Academic journal article Human Ecology

Washington Wizard: PAM Professor Advises the Obama Administration

Article excerpt

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As he walked out of the room where President Barack Obama had just signed a new executive order, a group of cheering labor activists asked Jordan Matsudaira to take their photo. After he snapped the shot, they asked about his connection to the order, which greatly boosted the minimum wage for federal contractors.

Matsudaira, assistant professor of policy analysis and management, explained that he worked at the White House and had helped craft the order--eliciting hugs and thanks from the group. It was a highlight of Matsudaira's recent two-year term on the Council of Economic Advisers--including one year as chief economist--an executive branch agency that advises the president on economic policy. "Feeling that kind of direct impact your work has on people is not something you really get to experience as an academic," Matsudaira says.

Now back at Cornell, Matsudaira will share his White House stories with students, teaching them to make research relevant to policymakers. "In the course of two weeks, two days, or sometimes two hours, you're given a question and you have to come up with a really good answer and present evidence of why you think your answer is right," he says of the CEA.

A labor and education economist, Matsudaira has studied programs that foster upward mobility among people with low incomes. In Washington, he handled day-to-day management of CEA's labor and education policy before being promoted to chief economist in his second year, where his attention turned primarily to education policy, a presidential priority.

He presented research findings to Obama on several occasions and provided data showing which policy options were most likely to stimulate the economy. …

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