March 3, 2021

Obama’s Choice for Economic Adviser Is Known as Labor Expert

Dr. Krueger, 50, was probably chosen in part for his award-winning research on the job market, an asset at a time when the country is suffering from the worst unemployment in a generation.

In remarks in the White House Rose Garden on Monday, President Obama called Dr. Krueger “one of the nation’s leading economists” and cited the professor’s record on economic policy work “both inside and outside of government.”

He is perhaps best known for his research on the minimum wage, in which he used an empirical experiment to determine that raising the minimum wage did not reduce employment. But he has also written, both in his academic work and for the general interest press, about education, happiness, income distribution, social insurance, regulation, terrorism, rock concerts and the environment, among many other subjects. (His non-academic work has included stints as a contributor to the Sunday Business section and the Economix blog of The New York Times.)

Dr. Krueger is considered a liberal-moderate economist, but has supporters on both sides of the aisle. Greg Mankiw, a Harvard economist who served as the chairman of President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers, endorsed the forthcoming announcement Monday as “an excellent choice by President Obama.”

Given that Dr. Krueger has already been approved once by the Senate — for his Treasury position — the White House appeared to be hoping that he would sail through a Congressional approval process that has been otherwise contentious for most of the administration’s appointees. He would replace Austan Goolsbee, who left the administration earlier this month.

Among economists Dr. Krueger is known as a voracious data hound, using surveys and natural experiments to find empirical results. As a result, most of his research is directly tied to real-world policy problems.

One of his most recent studies, for example, looked at how much time unemployed workers devoted to the job hunt as their weeks of joblessness piled up, using a survey that followed 6,025 jobless workers over 24 weeks during the early part of the economic recovery. Dr. Krueger has also served as an adviser to Gallup, the polling organization.

Dr. Krueger was also one of the administration’s chief spokesmen for a payroll tax cut designed to encourage employers to hire, a policy that was in effect under the HIRE Act during 2010. The tax incentive, which was designed by Senators Chuck Schumer and Orrin Hatch after a raft of competing proposals floated through Washington, was criticized by some economists as being too small and ill-targeted to make much of a difference in hiring.

Today, some economists are encouraging the administration to create a bigger and better-crafted version as part of a new jobs push, perhaps in addition to the President Obama’s stated desire for extending the employee-side cut in the payroll tax set to expire this year.

In his position at the Treasury Department, Dr. Krueger was also a major proponent of and architect behind the Build America Bonds program, which provided federal subsidies for a new type of taxable municipal bond to help states and localities raise money for infrastructure projects.

Dr. Krueger is the Bendheim Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University, where he has held a joint appointment in the Economics Department and Woodrow Wilson School since 1987. In 1994-95, Dr. Krueger served as chief economist at the Department of Labor under President Clinton.

Dr. Krueger was nominated by President Obama to be assistant secretary for economic policy and chief economist at Treasury in March 2009. He returned to Princeton, apparently to retain his tenure appointment, last fall.

He received his bachelor’s degree from Cornell University’s School of Industrial Labor Relations and his Ph.D. from Harvard, where he collaborated with Larry Summers, the White House’s former National Economic Council director. 

Mr. Goolsbee left earlier this month to return to the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. He had been advising President Obama since the latter’s 2004 Senate campaign.

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