Who We Are
Founded in 1982, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR) is a nonpartisan economic policy research organization that unites remarkable economic talent from all parts of Stanford University. SIEPR faculty and researchers advise and influence policymakers in a variety of unique and important ways. The impact of our faculty’s research makes a difference.
George Shultz and Michael Boskin both played important roles in forming the institute. There was no center on the Stanford University campus for economic scholars to gather and discuss their research. Since economists are spread throughout the university — in the economics, history, and political science departments; the business, engineering, and law schools; the Hoover Institution; and the School of Medicine — creation of a central clearinghouse seemed desirable. Thus, SIEPR was born to bring these economists together with leaders in business, technology, and government to analyze, discuss, and debate ideas on economic topics.
Researchers at SIEPR study a variety of economic policy-oriented issues and advise them on meaningful ways to contribute their research and ideas to policymakers who are looking for solutions to a number of complicated concerns.
SIEPR scholars conduct studies on important economic policy issues in the Unites States and other countries. SIEPR’s goal is to inform and advise policy makers and the public and to guide their decisions with sound policy analysis. In the course of their research, SIEPR faculty train, educate, and support PhD students as future economic policy analysts.
Past SIEPR directors have included some of the most respected economists in the field: John Taylor, former undersecretary of treasury for international affairs; Michael Boskin, former chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Bush; Gavin Wright, an economic historian and former chair of the Department of Economics, Stanford University; John Shoven, an expert on Social Security and former dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford; James Sweeney, an energy and natural resources expert who has done critical work on automotive fuel economy regulation; James Rosse, former Stanford University provost; and Lawrence Lau, a leading expert on China.
Encouraging interaction between academic scholars and the private sector has been a feature of SIEPR from the beginning. Close proximity to the Silicon Valley and a thriving venture capital community has helped to create an atmosphere of support and involvement. The entrepreneurial community has also benefited from the expertise of the SIEPR faculty and their research.
What We Do
SIEPR’s goal is to improve long-term economic policy. Researchers advise and influence policymakers. Enlightened policy can make a vast difference in the quality of millions of lives. Consider the difference in the economic circumstances of people living in North and South Korea, or the contrast between East and West Germany before unification. The gap in the standard of living in those cases is clearly enormous, and the most obvious cause is the presence or absence of the market system and enlightened economic policies. Economic policies can similarly promote or hamper economic growth. Researchers examine the impact of alternative economic policies to inform policymakers of the consequences of their decisions.
Although there are thousands of economists, only a few of them will create the ideas and advocate policy initiatives that will dramatically improve the lives of millions. Historically, one might point to Adam Smith or John Maynard Keynes or, more recently, Milton Friedman as revolutionary thinkers. SIEPR is fortunate in being well endowed with contemporary influential economists; some who come to mind include Michael Boskin, former chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers; John Taylor, former undersecretary of treasury for international affairs; Tim Bresnahan, former chief economist of the antitrust division of the Department of Justice; Anne Krueger, former first deputy managing director at the International Monetary Fund; Kenneth Arrow, Nobel Prize-winning economist; and George Shultz, former secretary of state. SIEPR’s impact far exceeds what one would expect from our number of scholars. This is due to the enormous talents of our people.
SIEPR scholars not only have the talent to make an impact, they have a track record of doing so. The consumer price index (CPI) has been modernized thanks to the work of Michael Boskin. The taxation of pensions was changed because of the work of John Shoven. And in addition, his work on Social Security has been sought after by many administrations. James Sweeney and Frank Wolak are working on new ways to conserve energy and electricity. Tom MaCurdy has studied the child welfare system and offered economic-based ideas that help to streamline the system and put dollars in the right pockets. A number of our scholars, including Greg Rosston and Paul Milgrom, have altered the way that electromagnetic spectrum is allocated. Boskin, Sweeney, Shoven, and Shultz all serve on the California Council of Economic Advisers and work with the governor on sound economic practices for the state. Other scholars have advocated efficient ways to improve the environment or to offer inflation protection to long-term savers. The per person or per dollar impact of SIEPR is astounding.
There is no shortage of economic policies in need of examination. SIEPR scholars are working on welfare reform in California, improvements in federal government budget policy, and public policy toward technology in India and China. We are addressing the fuel efficiency of cars, energy policy in the United States, and the California budget crisis. SIEPR has the talent pool — including some of the best graduate students in the world — and we have the agenda to continue to make enormous and beneficial impacts on society.