Anita did her undergraduate work at Hunter College of the City of New York and her graduate work at the University of Chicago and Columbia University. Her first job was as an economist at the Standard Oil of New Jersey. She was the first woman to hold such a position. She married Robert Summers in 1953.
After raising three sons, Anita returned to work in 1967 teaching economic theory and urban economics at Swarthmore College. Then, from 1971 to 1979, she served as Head of the Urban Economics section in the Research Department of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. She wrote many articles on urban public finance and the economics of education.
In 1979, she joined Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania to start the first public policy department in a business school. She wrote many articles and wrote and edited books on urban economics, educational equity, value-added rewards, state formulas for education finance, and urban economic development policy. Anita chaired the Department of Business Economics and Public Policy from 1983-1988. She was a member of Provost's Academic Planning and Budget Committee from 1984–1990, in addition to many other University activities. She was Ombudsman of the University of Pennsylvania from 2001-2003. Summers has been a recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Awards at Wharton several times.
Anita was a member of the Board of Directors and Chair of the Audit Committee of Meridian Bancorp from 1987 to 1996. She was Chair of the Board of Directors of Mathematica Policy Research from 1993-2010. She was also Chair of the Economic Subcommittee of the Three Mile Island Commission.