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President's Message

A Message from the Research Director

Greetings to the IWPR community! I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to be working with all of you, continuing the great work underway and developing new projects over time. For those of you who do not yet know me, some history may help. I received my Ph.D. in economics from U.Mass/Amherst, in 1983. At the time, no one on the faculty specialized in feminist economics, but over the course of the next decades, several of the graduates made this transition, including Randy Albelda, Nancy Folbre, June Lapidus, Juliet Schor, and myself.  Nancy now teaches at U.Mass/Amherst and Randy at U.Mass/Boston.

My early research at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee concerned the microeconomics of work motivation, which led to my promotion to full professor in 1995. At that point, I became involved in work-family research through the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, starting with a study of the time use of elementary school teachers, and later with an emphasis on academic faculty. Much of that research is rooted in the notion that the American workplace is not designed for employees with caregiving commitments – particularly mothers, but also involved fathers and those caring for ailing elders or disabled partners. Although not everyone in the field labels themselves as a feminist, those who did became friends and allies due to the simple fact that caregiving commitments generate gender inequality in the workplace and the home.

By the early 2000s, many had concluded that further public policy change was essential to combating this source of gender inequality. For example, even if a major corporation was willing to ‘accommodate’ a high-powered mother in an executive position, they still had no incentive to provide, say, paid sick days for low-income, single mothers. I approached others who shared these concerns to form the Take Care Net, an informal alliance of researchers and advocates, that could intervene in the policy process with research, petitions, report cards, and so forth. We developed the Work and Family Bill of Rights, graded candidates for national election on their positions, and held several Congressional briefings around work and family issues.

Much of that work was undertaken with Dr. Hartmann and others at IWPR, including Dr. Barbara Gault, Ariane Hegewisch, and Dr. Vicky Lovell. We also worked together on the 2008 presidential elections via the Economists Policy Group for Women’s Issues.

These experiences led to my recent service as a Senior Economist for the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, chaired by Representative Carolyn Maloney.  There I worked on a variety of women’s economic and labor market issues and work-family policy research, including estimates of coverage under the proposed Healthy Families Act.

Serving as Research Director for IWPR represents an obvious next step at this time.  While working for the Congress, I co-authored a paper on employees attending work while infected with the flu during the H1N1 pandemic last fall with IWPR’s Dr. Kevin Miller; continued to follow the research of Barbara, Ariane, and Heidi; became friends with IWPR’s Dr. Jeff Hayes due to our shared interest in CPS data; and participated in the IWPR Roundtables on Women and the Economy.

The beauty of this position lies partly in the high level of talent, knowledge, and commitment that IWPR has and continues to attract. This is an extraordinary group indeed. In addition, the position will allow me to continue researching work-family issues, particularly around paid sick days, but with a broader lens in terms of gender inequality. IWPR has an excellent reputation regarding its work on the pay gap, Social Security, women’s poverty and welfare reform, education and training, international women’s issues and, most recently, women and immigration. I very much look forward to using my expertise to enhance the research of IWPR and am excited about the opportunity to explore new research terrain with the excellent staff here.

Robert Drago

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