Cal Prof to Head White House Council of Economic Advisers

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday November 26, 2008 - 10:35:00 AM

President-elect Barack Obama announced Monday that he had chosen Christina Romer, professor of economics at UC Berkeley and a resident of Oakland, to head the White House Council of Economic Advisers. 

Romer will join Timothy F. Geithner—who Obama nominated as Treasury secretary—and former president of Harvard University Lawrence H. Summers —who will head the White House Economic Council—to become one of the key members of the president-elect’s new economic team. 

The Council of Economic Advisers is comprised of three members who recommend policy options to the president. 

As chair of the CEA, Romer, along with the director of the National Economic Council, will play an important role in creating the president’s policy plans. 

Calling the current economic climate a “crisis of historic proportions,” Obama introduced his new economic team at a press conference in Chicago Monday morning, describing Romer as both a leading macroeconomist and a leading economic historian, perhaps best known for her work on America’s recovery from the Great Depression and the robust economic expansion that followed. 

Romer has also served as co-director of the National Bureau of Economic Research Monetary Economics program since 2003 and is a member of the Bureau’s Business Cycle Dating Committee, which is responsible for officially determining when a recession has started and ended, experience Obama said would come in handy when she advised him on the challenges of the current economy. 

The president-elect also mentioned Romer’s groundbreaking research on topics the new administration was likely to confront, ranging from tax policy to recessions, and said that her “clear-eyed, independent analyses have received praise from both conservative and liberal thinkers alike.” 

Romer is the Class of 1957-Garff B. Wilson Professor of Economics at UC Berkeley, where she teaches economic history and macroeconomics, and has served as vice president and a member of the executive committee of the American Economic Association. 

Before joining the university’s faculty in 1988 and getting promoted to full professor in 1993, Romer received her Ph.D. from M.I.T. in 1985 and was an assistant professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University from 1985 to 1988. 

Her research interests listed on the UC Berkeley website include the effects of fiscal policy, identification of monetary shocks, the determinants of American macroeconomic policy changes in short-run fluctuations over the 20th century and causes of the Great Depression. 

A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award at UC Berkeley, Romer is the recipient of several awards and fellowships, including the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship and the National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator Award, and an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship. 

“This is a superb appointment,” said Maurice Obstfeld, a UC Berkeley economics professor and an expert on monetary and international economics, in a statement released by the university. “Given the economic challenges we are facing, the country needs a top macroeconomist heading the CEA. I can think of no one more qualified than Christy Romer.” 

UC Berkeley professors who have chaired the CEA in previous years include Laura Tyson, who headed the council during the Clinton administration from 1993 to 1996, and Janet Yellen, who served as chair from 1997 to 1999 and is now president of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank. 

In an e-mail to colleagues, Gérard Roland, chair of UC Berkeley’s economics department, wrote: “These are exceptional times where economists can do so much to help protect the livelihoods of millions of people.” 

Romer, along with her husband David, who is the Herman Royer Professor in Political Economy at UC Berkeley, have studied the history of the U.S. monetary policy from the Great Depression to today, and also consulted for the Obama campaign, writing talking points for one of his speeches on the economy.