A New Addition to Biden's Council of Economic Advisers
U.S. President Joe Biden is tapping C. Kirabo Jackson, a labor economist whose research advocates robust public spending on schools, to fill out his three-member Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), according to a White House official. The selection indicates public education will be a key area of focus for Biden's administration ahead of a 2024 re-election bid expected to pivot on the strength of the economy. The position does not require Senate confirmation.
Jackson's Expertise and Research Background
Jackson, who will take a leave from Northwestern University, where he is a professor focused on economics, education, and public policy, is renowned for research on what attracts good teachers to specific schools and other data revealing that raising school spending boosted students' future wages.
Current Economic Climate
The U.S. unemployment rate is at 3.5%, and the economy grew at a 2.4% rate last quarter, while consumer prices are rising at a 3.2% annual clip. While the Biden administration sees these numbers as a positive sign of moving towards steadier momentum with slower growth and inflation, voters are largely dissatisfied with Biden's handling of the economy, creating a challenge for his economic policymakers.
Biden's Education Vision Aligns with Jackson
Biden has advocated for more U.S. government investment in early childhood education programs like preschool for three- and four-year-olds to lift wages and reduce poverty, views that resonate with some of Jackson's research. However, the president's efforts to dramatically increase such funding have consistently failed to win sufficient support in Congress.
Addressing Lagging Educational Performance Post-Pandemic
Jackson's appointment comes as the Biden administration is contemplating ways to enhance lagging educational performance since the COVID-19 pandemic. Prolonged public school closures, staffing shortages, and other issues during the pandemic are believed to have contributed to sharp declines in U.S. children's reading and mathematics test scores since 2020.
Jackson's Role in Addressing Long-term Economic Challenges
Cecilia Rouse, the Princeton University economist who used to be Biden's CEA chair, said Jackson's work would be crucial given the country's biggest long-term economic challenges, including an aging workforce, declining fertility rates, a lack of childcare, and learning loss. "Coming out of this pandemic, one of the big consequences that we will be addressing for some time is the learning loss," she said. The choice of Jackson "may signal that the administration is looking for creative ways to address what can be a huge loss in human capital for this country for quite some time."