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Lawrence Summers

Charles W. Eliot University Professor

Member of the Board, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs




Lawrence H. Summers is the Charles W. Eliot University Professor and President Emeritus of Harvard University. During the past two decades, he has served in a series of senior policy positions in Washington, D.C., including the 71st Secretary of the Treasury for President Clinton, Director of the National Economic Council for President Obama and Vice President of Development Economics and Chief Economist of the World Bank.

He received a bachelor of science degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1975 and was awarded a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1982. In 1983, he became one of the youngest individuals in recent history to be named as a tenured member of the Harvard University faculty. In 1987, Mr. Summers became the first social scientist ever to receive the annual Alan T. Waterman Award of the National Science Foundation (NSF), and in 1993 he was awarded the John Bates Clark Medal, given every two years to the outstanding American economist under the age of 40.

He is currently the Charles W. Eliot University Professor at Harvard University and the Weil Director of the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business & Government at Harvard’s Kennedy School. He and his wife Elisa New, a professor of English at Harvard, reside in Brookline with their six children.



By Date



February 7, 2016

"No free lunches but plenty of cheap ones"

Op-Ed, Financial Times

By Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor

The idea that it is possible to achieve apparently conflicting objectives is not confined to public policy. Henry Ford, with his famous $5 working day, both made his workers better off and raised his profits. Ford’s example has recently been followed by AetnaWalmart and others.

January 10, 2016

"Why the Fed needs to prepare for the worst right now"

Op-Ed, Washington Post

By Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor

Often markets are volatile at the end of the year — as many traders go on holiday and those with losses unload them — and then settle down as a new year begins. Not this year. U.S. and European markets closed significantly lower on Friday after a very rough week despite a very strong U.S. jobs report. The week’s economic news was dominated by dramatic declines in China’s stock market and currency; the week also saw a further plunge in oil priceseven in the face of major tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia.



Gage Skidmore

December 29, 2015

"Here’s what Bernie Sanders gets wrong – and right – about the Fed"

Op-Ed, Washington Post

By Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor

Sen. Bernie Sanders had an op-ed in the New York Times on Federal Reserve reform last week that provides an opportunity to reflect on the Fed and financial reform more generally. I think that Sanders is right in his central point that financial policy is overly influenced by financial interests to its detriment and that it is essential that this be repaired. At the same time, reform requires careful reflection if it is not to be counterproductive. And it is important in approaching issues of reform not to give ammunition to right-wing critics of the Fed who would deny it the capacity to engage in the kind of crisis responses that, judged in their totality, have been successful in responding to the financial crisis. The most important policy priority with respect to the Fed is protecting it from stone-age monetary ideas like a return to the gold standard, or turning policymaking over to a formula, or removing the dual-mandate commanding the Fed to worry about unemployment as well as inflation.

December 15, 2015

"Larry Summers: What the Federal Reserve got wrong, and what it should do next"

Op-Ed, Washington Post

By Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor

The Federal Reserve meets this week and has strongly signaled that it will raise rates. Given the strength of the signals that have been sent, it would becredibility destroyingnot to carry through with the rate increase, so there is no interesting discussion to be had about what should be done on Wednesday. Donaldson

December 7, 2015

"Central bankers do not have as many tools as they think"

Op-Ed, Financial Times

By Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor

While debate about the relevance of the secular stagnation idea to current economic conditions continues to rage, there is now almost universal acceptance of a crucial part of the argument. It is agreed that the “neutral” interest rate, which neither boosts nor constrains growth, has declined substantially and is likely to be lower in the future than in the past throughout the industrial world because of a growing relative abundance of savings relative to investment.

November 8, 2015

"Grasp the reality of China’s rise"

Op-Ed, Financial Times

By Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor

For the first time in centuries, China now affects the global economy as much as it is affected by the global economy. In the years ahead, China is likely to account for between a third and half of growth in global incomes, trade and commodity demand, and its significance will only increase as its share of the world economy rises.

November 3, 2015

"Larry Summers: Advanced economies are so sick we need a new way to think about them"

Op-Ed, Washington Post

By Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor

An e-book containing the papers and presentations from the European Central Bank's central banking forum conference in Sintra, Portugal, is now available. ECB President Mario Draghi and his colleagues are to be greatly commended for running a forum that is so open to profound challenges to central banking orthodoxy.

The volume contains a paper by Olivier Blanchard, Eugenio Cerutti and me on hysteresis — and separately some of my reflections asserting the need for a new Keynesian economics that is more Keynesian and less new.

Here, I summarize these two papers. Money

October 24, 2015

"Uniting Behind the Divisive ‘Cadillac’ Tax on Health Plans"

Op-Ed, The New York Times

By N. Gregory Mankiw and Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor

One of us, a former member of the Obama administration, remains a fan of the president. The other, not so much. But we agree on one thing: The excise tax on high-cost health care plans, the so-called Cadillac tax, is good policy. Congress should side with President Obama and resist calls to scrap it.



Wikipedia Commons

October 7, 2015

The global economy is in serious danger

Op-Ed, Washington Post

By Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor

As the world’s financial policymakers convene for their annual meeting Fridayin Peru, the dangers facing the global economy are more severe than at any time since the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy in 2008.



September 25, 2015

"Notable & Quotable: Lawrence Summers at Harvard"

Op-Ed, Wall Street Journal

By Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor

I did not support the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy regarding gays in the military, and believe it should have been repealed long before it was. I believe the invasion of Iraq was a grave mistake and that the United States’ participation in Vietnam was catastrophic. But none of those judgments led me, in any way, to back away from support for the military itself and for those who served in it. I do not believe that the support of this university, or any other university, for the military should be contingent on the political decisions of those who exert civilian control over it.

Events Calendar

We host a busy schedule of events throughout the fall, winter and spring. Past guests include: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former Vice President Al Gore, and former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev.