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Event Summary

America’s stubbornly high unemployment rate and sluggish economic recovery featured prominently in Thursday’s vice presidential debate. The disagreement among politicians reflects the broader lack of consensus among economists who have not identified a consistent narrative for the Great Recession. On Friday at AEI, Casey Mulligan of the University of Chicago presented a new and controversial explanation for the recession, featured in his recently released book “The Redistribution Recession: How Labor Market Distortions Contracted the Economy.”

Mulligan argues that expansions of the U.S. safety net program deepened and lengthened the downturn by reducing incentives to work. In his view, conventional explanations are inadequate. Instead, he believes that redistribution eroded incentives, which is dangerous because it damages productivity.

Robert Moffitt of Johns Hopkins University evaluated Mulligan’s provocative work, calling his approach of analyzing the labor market at the aggregate level unconventional. Both economists attempted to disentangle the complex and disheartening subject of unemployment and its causes, offering valuable food for thought to policymakers.
— Veronika Polakova

Event Description

A new book by the University of Chicago’s Casey Mulligan presents a fresh and controversial explanation for the listless economic recovery following the Great Recession. In “The Redistribution Recession: How Labor Market Distortions Contracted the Economy,” Mulligan argues that expansions of the U.S. safety net program deepened and lengthened the downturn by reducing incentives to work.

At this AEI event, Mulligan will present the findings of his book, followed by comments from Robert Moffitt of Johns Hopkins University and an audience question-and-answer session. AEI’s Alan Viard will moderate.

If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.


9:15 AM
Registration and Breakfast

9:30 AM
Casey Mulligan, University of Chicago
Robert Moffitt, Johns Hopkins University
Alan D. Viard, AEI

10:30 AM

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Veronika Polakova at [email protected], 202.862.4880.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact Véronique Rodman at [email protected], 202.862.4871.

Speaker Biographies

Robert Moffitt is Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Economics at Johns Hopkins University and holds a joint appointment with the Bloomberg School of Public Health. Moffitt researches the economics of poverty and welfare programs for the poor as well as the economics of the labor market.  He was once the chief editor of the American Economic Review and a Guggenheim Fellow, as well as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a national associate of the National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the Econometric Society and a recipient of a MERIT Award from the National Institutes of Health.

Casey Mulligan is a professor of economics at the University of Chicago. In the past, he has served as a visiting professor teaching public economics at Harvard University, Clemson University and the Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago. He is affiliated with the National Bureau of Economic Research, the George J. Stigler Center for the Study of the Economy and the State and the Population Research Center. He has received awards and fellowships from the National Science Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Smith-Richardson Foundation and the John M. Olin Foundation. His research covers capital and labor taxation, the gender wage gap, Social Security, voting and the economics of aging. He is the author of “Parental Priorities and Economic Inequality” and writes blog entries for The New York Times and

Alan D. Viard was a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and an assistant professor of economics at Ohio State University before joining AEI. He has also worked for the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Tax Analysis, the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers and the Joint Committee on Taxation of the U.S. Congress. Viard is a frequent contributor to AEI’s Tax Policy Outlook, AEI’s On the Margin column in Tax Notes and AEI’s Marginal Impact column in State Tax Notes. In January 2010, he was named a nominee for 2009 Tax Person of the Year by Tax Notes. Viard is also the co-author of “Progressive Consumption Taxation: The X Tax Revisited” (May 2012).

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