David Wilcox

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David Wilcox

Senior Fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics

An economic expert who draws on real-world experience to present a unique take on the economic outlook and key challenges confronting policymakers.

David Wilcox Profile Photo

David Wilcox is currently a Senior Fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. From 2011 through 2018, he served as Director of the Division of Research and Statistics at the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, DC. In that role, he functioned as the chief economist of the division, a senior advisor to three successive Chairs of the Federal Reserve Board, the division’s lead for strategic direction, and its chief manager. Research and Statistics collaborates with other divisions at the Board in providing an economic and financial outlook to the Federal Open Market Committee prior to each of its policy-setting meetings; it supports the Federal Reserve’s program to promote financial stability and conduct financial supervision; it has extensive programs in economic measurement; and it maintains an active research agenda. As director, Wilcox put special emphasis on improving diversity and inclusion, both at the Federal Reserve and in economics more generally.

From 2001 to 2011, Wilcox was the Deputy Director of R&S. During that period, he helped to coordinate the Federal Reserve’s policy response to the financial crisis. Other highlights of his career include serving as Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy at the Treasury Department from 1997 to 2001, and as a senior economist at the Council of Economic Advisers from 1994 to 1995. Wilcox has published articles in scholarly journals and other outlets on topics including monetary policy, fiscal policy, household spending and saving behavior, economic forecasting at the Federal Reserve, economic measurement, and pension economics.

Wilcox received a doctoral degree in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Williams College. He lives in the Washington area with his wife Melynda. Their daughters Amanda and Laura are now students in college.

David Wilcox’s Speech Topics

  • How will we fight the next recession?

    One macroeconomic forecast is certain to be correct:  There will be a next recession.  However, U.S. policymakers are woefully short of the ammunition they will need to fight even an average recession, let alone a severe one.  The Federal Reserve has too little room to cut interest rates, and fiscal policy doesn’t seem poised to step into the breach.  There are practical steps that the Fed could take to increase its recession-fighting capability, but it is not yet clear whether the Fed will choose to take such steps.  For their part, fiscal policymakers mostly seem not to have focused yet on the challenge of fighting the next recession.  When they do, they may feel inhibited from taking bold action by some of the legacies of the last recession.  If sufficient corrective steps are not taken by both monetary and fiscal policymakers, future recessions will be longer and deeper, and recoveries will be more anemic. 

  • The current economic situation and the outlook

    The labor market is as about as strong as it has been in 50 years, and inflation remains low and stable.  In short, the domestic macroeconomy is in very good shape, and available indicators point to more of the same.  Even so, the microeconomic story is not so good:  Income gains at the individual level during the current economic expansion have been meagre—nonexistent for many—a fact that probably helps explain widespread economic dissatisfaction.  Moreover, there are plenty of things that could go wrong at the macro level, any one of which could cause the next recession.  For a variety of reasons, future recessions are likely to be longer and deeper than the historical average.  On the other hand, if recession is avoided in the near term and the economic expansion is prolonged, history suggests that many groups will enjoy a measure of prosperity they do not experience when times are slack.  In light of this latter consideration, the Federal Reserve will likely fight especially hard to sustain the current economic expansion.  The Fed will be capable of conducting a more-effective countercyclical monetary policy if its independence is preserved. 

  • The economic case for diversity and inclusion—and practical steps for promoting it

    Diversity and inclusion generate many different types of benefits.  At the micro level, they help individual employees and businesses operate at the top of their capabilities.  And when things are working well at the micro level, that helps at the macro level too.  There are practical steps that managers can take to improve the professional environments around them—by hiring newcomers in an inclusive manner, evaluating incumbents fairly, running meetings in a way that seeks the broadest possible engagement, and distributing high-profile assignments in an equitable manner.  The focus of this talk will be to make the economic case for creating a professional environment that is more diverse and inclusive, and to discuss the practical steps that managers can take to help bring that aspiration to reality. 


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