Public Release: 

What drives American competitiveness? Public lecture at the National Press Club and online

Speaker: Rebecca Blank, former US Commerce Secretary


With productivity slowing and wages stagnant, what can we make of American competiveness? Is it becoming an oxymoron or will other trends in the labor market, especially those in the nation's major research universities, stem this perceived decline?

These questions and more will be addressed by Rebecca M. Blank, the former U.S. Secretary of Commerce and current chancellor of the University of Wisconsin, as she delivers the third annual Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize Lecture on May 7 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Blank is the recipient of this year's Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize, which recognizes leaders who champion the use of informed judgment to advance the public good and who promote the use of sound analysis and social science research in policy-making. The prize is awarded each year by the American Academy of Political and Social Science, which itself is dedicated to the use of social science to address important social problems. The lecture is cosponsored by SAGE.

She served at Commerce from 2009 to 2013, starting as undersecretary for economic affairs, then deputy secretary and lastly acting secretary of the cabinet agency with 45,000 employees and a budget that tops $10 billion. Before becoming a civil servant she had been a fellow at the Brookings Institution and before that was dean and professor of public policy and economics in the University of Michigan's Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy for nine years until 2008. During the Bill Clinton administration she spent two years on his Council of Economic Advisers and had also been on the faculty of Northwestern and Princeton universities.

"I have colleagues who know my research well and know me as an economist; I have colleagues who know my policy work and government service well," Blank said. "But these worlds are often separate. This award [and lecture] brings them together, recognizing my contributions in both areas."

Blank's address -- titled, "What Drives American Competitiveness?" - will see her discuss trends in the labor market that most affect U.S. competitiveness, including age distribution, skill mix, and changing demographic composition. She will also discuss the role of innovation in developing new products that improve well-being and drive productivity growth, and the sources of that innovation.

"In the past several decades, the pre-eminent U.S. position in the world economy has eroded as other countries have outstripped the U.S. in the growth of their educated workforce," Blank explains. "At the same time, other countries have also greatly increased their investments in basic research and innovation while U.S. investments have stalled. If the U.S. is to retain its long-term economic leadership, it must pay attention to policies that will enforce and enhance skills and innovation. The large public research university - an institution which was invented in the U.S. - has a key role to play."

The lecture, which starts at 2:30 p.m. and ends at 4, is free, but registration is requested. The National Press Club is located at 529 14th Street, NW in Washington, D.C. Click here to RSVP:

The lecture will also be livestreamed here:


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