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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



Gage Skidmore/CC

October 9, 2016

"Voters sour on traditional economic policy"

Op-Ed, Financial Times

By Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor

It is hard to escape the conclusion that there is a renaissance of populist authoritarianism



Andreas Praefcke, 30 September 2009

September 29, 2016

"The decline of the middle class is causing even more economic damage than we realized"

Op-Ed, The Washington Post

By Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor

I have just come across an International Monetary Fund working paper on income polarization in the United States that makes an important contribution to the secular stagnation debate. The authors — Ali Alichi, Kory Kantenga and Juan Solé — use standard econometric techniques to estimate the impact of declines in middle class incomes on total consumer spending. They find that polarization has reduced consumer spending by more than 3 percent or about $400 billion annually. If these findings stand up to scrutiny, they deserve to have a policy impact.



Lynne Sladky/AP

August 7, 2016

"The progressive case for championing pro-growth policies"

Op-Ed, Financial Times

By Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor

Issues of inequality, fairness, middle-class living standards and job creation have been central to the US presidential campaign.

Rightly so.

For many years, the incomes of all groups tended to move together. Indeed, as a graduate student in the late 1970s, I was taught that it was a “stylised fact” that the shares of US total income going to profits and to wages, and to the rich and to the poor, was constant.

All of this has changed. It is totally appropriate that widening inequality and the associated stalling of middle-class living standards should become an urgent political issue.



AP Photo

July 10, 2016

"Voters deserve responsible nationalism not reflex globalism"

Op-Ed, Financial Times

By Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor

It is clear after the Brexit vote and Donald Trump's victory in the Republican presidential primaries that voters are revolting against the relatively open economic policies that have been the norm in the US and Britain since the second world war.



Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

July 6, 2016

"Interest rates are at inconceivable levels, and we must confront what that means"

Op-Ed, The Washington Post

By Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor

The U.S. 10- and 30-year interest rates on Wednesday reached all-time lows of 1.32 percent and 2.10 percent. Record-low 10-year interest rates were also registered in Germany, France, Switzerland and Australia. Notably, Swiss 50-year interest rates are now for the first time negative. Rates out 15 years are negative in Germany and nine years in France.



Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP

June 24, 2016

"Why Brexit is worse for Europe than Britain"

Op-Ed, The Washington Post

By Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor

Brexit is in progress. If journalism is the rough draft of history, instant blog responses are even cruder responses to events. Nonetheless, here are some thoughts prior to markets opening in the United States.



Matt Rourke/AP

June 14, 2016

"The Fed is making the same mistakes over and over again"

Op-Ed, The Washington Post

By Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor

As the Federal Reserve meets today and tomorrow, I am increasingly convinced that while they have been making reasonable tactical judgement, their current strategy is ill adapted to the realities of the moment. Exuding soundness is the task of policymakers. Provoking thought is the task of academics. So here are some not-entirely-formed reflections.



Gage Skidmore

June 6, 2016

"The economic consequences of a Trump win would be severe"

Op-Ed, Financial Times

By Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor

On June 23, the UK will vote on whether to remain in the EU. On November 8, the US will vote on whether to elect Donald Trump as president. These elections have much in common. Both could lead to outcomes that would have seemed inconceivable not long ago. Both pit angry populists against the political establishment. And in both cases, polling suggests that the outcome is in doubt, with prediction markets suggesting a probability of between one in four and one in three of the radical outcome occurring.




May 25, 2016

"A lesson on infrastructure from the Anderson Bridge fiasco"

Op-Ed, The Boston Globe

By Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor and Rachel Lipson

SOMETIMES SMALL stories capture large truths. So it is with the fiasco that is the repair of the Anderson Memorial Bridge, connecting Boston and Harvard Square. Rehabilitation of the 232-foot bridge began in 2012, at an estimated cost of about $20 million; four years later, there is no end date in sight and the cost of the project is mushrooming, to $26.5 million at last count.

This glacial pace of implementation does not reflect the intrinsic technical difficulty of the task. For comparison, the Anderson Bridge itself was originally completed in just 11 months in 1912. General George Patton constructed nearly 40 times as much bridging in six months as American soldiers crossed the Rhine to win World War II. And even modern-day examples abound; for instance, in 2011, 14 bridges in Medford were fixed in just 10 weekends. In contrast, the lapses exposed by the Anderson Bridge project hold key lessons for America’s broader inability to solve its infrastructure problems.



Gage Skidmore

May 24, 2016

"What you need to know about the next recession (starring Donald Trump)"

Op-Ed, The Washington Post

By Lawrence Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor

How should we respond to the next recession? That was the topic of an event held by the Brookings Institution's Hamilton Project, where I spoke Monday in Washington with White House budget director Sean Donovan. I argued a number of points that address current concerns.

First, I argued that the possible election of “Demagogue Donald” dwarfs congressional dysfunction as a threat to American prosperity. Beyond lunatic and incoherent budget and trade policies, Donald Trump would for the first time make political risk of the kind usually discussed in the context of Argentina, China or Russia relevant to the United States. How else to interpret threats to renegotiate debt, prosecuteinsubordinate publications and rip up treaties? Creeping fascism as an issue dwarfs macroeconomic policy!

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.