Case Study Highlights
THE CATALYST MOMENT
Creating an intentional and interdisciplinary center for academic research on income inequalities and other key diversity and equity issues has in turn shaped the national conversation about public policies.
The first presidential election Berkeley professor Hilary Hoynes ever voted in was the 1980 election when Ronald Reagan won over incumbent Jimmy Carter. Two years after Reagan took office, Hoynes moved to Washington, DC to work for a public policy consulting firm — her first job after college. It was around this time that Hoynes began noticing the inequality gap growing in the United States.
“Living in Washington during this era was very eye opening for me,” she said. “I started to think about what the role of government should be and what we could or should do for the more disadvantaged populations.”
Nearly 35 years later, Hoynes is a well-known economist whose research focuses on poverty, inequality, and the impacts of government tax and transfer programs on low-income families.
Most recently, Hoynes was one of six economists invited to the White House in the spring of 2015 to an off-the-record meeting with President Obama, Vice President Biden, and a few senior staffers. “I was there to discuss the social safety net and what was and wasn’t working given these broader trends in the labor market,” Hoynes said. “I made the argument that the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Food Stamp program are central to helping keep households afloat.”
Hoynes joined the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society not only for the opportunity to present her research to those in the highest realms of power, but also because she was excited about the possibility of working with other scholars across campus interested in similar problems.
Beyond her roles as a professor and research economist, Hoynes is also the Distinguished Chair of the Haas Institute’s Economic Disparities cluster where she works to translate complex economic and public policy research into actionable policies for those in power. She is one of more than 90 University of California faculty affiliated with the Haas Institute, which is grouped into seven multidisciplinary research clusters focused on a full range of social equity issues including LGBTQ citizenship, disability studies, health disparities, religious diversity, and race and education.
Hoynes, along with two other faculty members affiliated with the Haas Institute, joined national policymakers at the Economic Policy Institute to discuss policy solutions to reduce economic and wealth inequality in the United States. The policies they presented were outlined in “Responding to Rising Inequality: Policies Interventions That Ensure Opportunity for All.” This policy brief from the Haas Institute promises a proven roadmap to end inequality and includes, among other things, support for expanding the scope of the Earned Income Tax Credit. This recommendation was largely based on Hoynes’ own research.
“I share the Haas Institute’s goal of translating research to action,” she said. “That can be very hard for individual professors and scholars to do on their own. But the tools, staff, and experience of the Haas Institute can really help to achieve these goals. What is truly unique about the Haas Institute, though, is the significant resources dedicated to faculty positions and endowed chairs to support this activity. That is transformative.”
Video Extra: The Haas Institute Faculty Clusters
At the heart of Berkeley's Haas Institute are seven faculty research clusters focused on addressing the most pressing issues related to marginalized communities. Meet several of the faculty chairs and leadership of the Haas Institute as they discuss their efforts to build a more fair and inclusive society.