In the Spotlight: Pavlina Tcherneva

If I ask you to picture an economist, chances are you’ll visualize an older white male who makes you feel bad for failing to understand mysterious diagrams. Those certainly exist. But so does Pavlina Tcherneva. Chair and Associate Professor of the Economics Department at Bard College, Pavlina spearheads the group of faculty that convinced me (daughter of graphic-designer-dad and dancer-mom) to get a degree in Economics, and then another. 

Pavlina’s Work in a Nutshell
Pavlina is comfortable in many unconventional territories of economics. She can tell you why the government should be your backup employer, why the federal budget really need not balance, and what money really is. Besides the US and her native Bulgaria, she’s consulted policy makers in Argentina, China, Canada, and the UK. Her work has been recognized by a wide range of people; most recently by Bernie Sanders, who used her graph to illustrate his point on inequality.

Current Research
Pavlina’s current research focuses on the “Job Guarantee” policy, which recommends the government acts like an employer of last resort by directly employing those people looking for work during economic slowdowns. In 2006, she spent her summer in the libraries of Cambridge, examining the original writings of Keynes. She offered a fresh interpretation of his approach to fiscal policy, and got a prize for it, too. Today, she investigates what the policy can do for economic growth, the unemployed, and in particular: women and youth.

Path to the Present
If you’re feeling inspired, take note: Being like Pavlina doesn’t happen overnight. In her case, it began with winning a competition that sent her to the US as an exchange student. She then earned a BA in math and economics from Gettysburg College, and a PhD in Economics from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Her undergraduate honors thesis was a math model of how a monopoly currency issuer can use its price setting powers to produce long-run full employment with stable prices.

As a college student, she helped organize a conference in Bretton Woods around this idea, which became the inaugural event of what has become known as Modern Monetary Theory. Then, there were a few years of teaching at UMKC and Franklin and Marshall, and a subsequent move to the Levy Economics Institute and Bard College several years ago. In the midst of all that, she was a two-time grantee from the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) in New York. Today, Pavlina lives in the Hudson Valley, together with her husband and daughter.

Eager for more?
If you’re curious about the Job Guarantee policy, here is both a 15 minute video, and a 150 page book. To understand Pavlina’s take on the Federal Budget, this article goes a long way. And to figure out what’s the deal with money, read this chapter of her book. Her work on inequality was featured in the New York TimesNPR, and other major media outlets. She has articles published by INETHuffington Post, and over a dozen works on the SSRN.

Originally published on The Minskys