$9.5 Million Gift to The Graduate Center, CUNY Significantly Advances Research on Income and Wealth Inequality

February 25, 2021

The latest gift from the James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Foundation brings the foundation’s total support for The Graduate Center’s Stone Center on Socio-Economic Inequality to $14.36 million, and will help the prominent research center prepare more early-career scholars

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Credit: Alex Irkievski

A $9.5 million gift from the James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Foundation to The Graduate Center, CUNY will significantly advance the study of the causes, nature, and consequences of socio-economic inequality in the United States and around the world. The gift supports the work of The Graduate Center's James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Center on Socio-Economic Inequality, which has emerged as an international leader in producing and promoting data-driven research that addresses the rising economic and social inequalities that threaten individual well-being and society as a whole.

The multi-year gift will enhance the Stone Center's already robust research, public programming, teaching, and data development concerning diverse facets of inequality, including wealth concentration, income inequality, persistent poverty, intergenerational mobility, and public opinion about inequality, as well as the social and economic policies that shape these crucial outcomes. A significant portion of the gift is designated for studying the high and rising wealth accumulation that is of growing concern in the United States and other countries. Much of this work will be concentrated within the Stone Center's GC Wealth Project, which aims to expand access to the latest research, information, and data on wealth inequality, especially high-end inequality.

"The drift of disproportionate asset holdings toward the pinnacles of wealth carries a society away from meritocracy, productivity, empathy, and mobility," said Jim Stone of the James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Foundation. "Carried far enough in a privately funded political environment, skewness in wealth distribution can ultimately undermine social cohesion and our democratic ideals. The Graduate Center at CUNY has, I believe, assembled the most distinguished and talented faculty corps anywhere in the world with a primary focus on wealth and income inequities. I foresee more and more talented graduate students and postdocs coming from around the world to study alongside CUNY's scholars. My wife Cathy and I are honored to be helping the center grow, and we look forward to seeing its impact and reputation multiply." 

"As the nation's largest urban public university, CUNY has a historic mission to create economic opportunity for our students, as well as the public we serve. In order to do this, it's crucial to prepare scholars who question the status quo and whose research spurs new thinking and new solutions — which is exactly why the Stone Center on Socio-Economic Inequality is so important," said CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez. "I would like to thank Jim and Cathy Stone for their generous support of The Graduate Center, which is critical for CUNY to remain a leader in producing research that shines a light on the pernicious effects of social and economic inequality."

In addition to funding the operation of the Stone Center and the work of its six faculty scholars, the gift will allow the Stone Center to expand its postdoctoral scholars program in which young scholars from a variety of disciplines spend two years at the center producing empirical research on topics related to inequality. The center will recruit two new postdocs each year during the next five years — a total of 10 additional postdoctoral scholars. Half of these postdoctoral scholars will focus their research on wealth inequality. Each postdoc will be granted funding to hire two Graduate Center Ph.D. students as research assistants — 20 students in total over five years.

The Stone Foundation gift also establishes an endowment to support The James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Distinguished Chair in Socio-Economic Inequality to be held by the faculty director of the Stone Center. This $1 million endowment will generate additional financial resources each year, which will support scholarly activities carried out within the center.

"Since its establishment 60 years ago, The Graduate Center has been dedicated to research that serves the public good," said Graduate Center President Robin L. Garrell. "A significant research focus has been understanding the causes and consequences of inequalities that persist in New York City, the nation, and the world. We are proud to be the home of the Stone Center, where our distinguished faculty are engaged in innovative, interdisciplinary scholarship, working side-by-side with diverse postdoctoral scholars and graduate students who represent the next generation of inequality scholars. I am truly grateful to Jim and Cathy Stone for their wonderfully generous and ongoing support."

"I am inspired every day by my Graduate Center faculty colleagues at the Stone Center and by the ingenuity of our postdoctoral scholars and graduate student research assistants," said Graduate Center Professor Janet C. Gornick, director of the Stone Center. "We share a commitment to empirical research that addresses pressing issues related to the many forms of socio-economic inequality that are all too prevalent in our country and the world. I am proud of our collective successes in sharing knowledge through lauded and highly cited publications, packed public programs, and workshops for early-career scholars. I am honored by and truly grateful for the trust that the Stone Foundation has placed in me and my colleagues, and I am thrilled by this opportunity to seek new ways to address inequality through data-driven research and to create an ever-wider network of diverse inequality scholars."

The Stone Center was founded at The Graduate Center in the fall of 2016 with an initial $2.5 million gift from the Stone Foundation. The foundation has continued to support the center's work, notably its GC Wealth Project and postdoctoral scholars program, with additional gifts. The latest $9.5 donation brings the foundation's total level of support to $14.36 million.

The Stone Cente's six faculty scholars include Graduate Center Professors Miles Corak (Economics); Janet Gornick (Political Science and Sociology); Paul Krugman (Economics); Leslie McCall (Political Science and Sociology), who is also the center's associate director; and Branko Milanovic, a senior scholar. Salvatore Morelli directs the GC Wealth Project. The center currently supports four postdoctoral scholars (two more postdocs will begin in September 2021) and 13 Ph.D. student researchers. Inequality scholars from universities and institutes around the world serve as Stone Center Affiliated Scholars. The center has hosted public conversations with leading scholars, policymakers, authors, and public intellectuals, including Janet Yellen, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Joseph Stiglitz and Nicholas Stern. Its annual Inequality by the Numbers workshops attract 50 to 60 social science Ph.D. students and early-career scholars for a free, week-long series of seminars, lectures, and discussions on a range of socio-economic disparities. The center also houses the U.S. Office of LIS, the renowned cross-national data center based in Luxembourg.

The Graduate Center's Stone Center is one of five inequality projects funded by the Stone Foundation. The other four are located at the Harvard Kennedy School, Brown University, INSEAD, and UC Berkeley.

*Contact Tanya Domi for media interviews at tdomi@gc.cuny.edu.

About The Graduate Center of The City University of New York

The Graduate Center, CUNY is a leader in public graduate education devoted to enhancing the public good through pioneering research, serious learning, and reasoned debate. The Graduate Center offers ambitious students more than 40 doctoral and master's programs of the highest caliber, taught by top faculty from throughout CUNY — the nation's largest public urban university. Through its nearly 40 centers, institutes, initiatives, and the Advanced Science Research Center, The Graduate Center influences public policy and discourse and shapes innovation. The Graduate Center's extensive public programs make it a home for culture and conversation.

About the Stone Center on Socio-Economic Inequality

The James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Center on Socio-Economic Inequality conducts and promotes quantitative research using inequality as a lens on society, the economy, and politics. The faculty, postdoctoral scholars, and students working within the center share a commitment to scholarship that is data-driven, interdisciplinary, and policy-oriented, and addresses questions about inequality throughout the world.

About the James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Foundation

The mission of the James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Foundation is to promote a more knowledgeable and inclusive society, with an emphasis on education, science, environmental sustainability, and the mitigation of economic inequality.

About Jim and Cathy Stone

Jim Stone is the founder and CEO of the Plymouth Rock group of insurance companies. He began his career teaching economics at Harvard University after earning his B.A. and Ph.D. at Harvard. From 1975 to 1979, he served as the insurance commissioner for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and then served as chairman of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. He is a member of the Executive Committee of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, a member of the board of directors of ProPublica, a former member of the board of directors of the Boston Globe, a former vice chairman of Global Post, chairman emeritus of Management Sciences for Health, and chair of EdVestors' School on the Move Prize Panel. Jim is the author of the bestselling book, Five Easy Theses: Commonsense Solutions to America's Greatest Economic Challenges, and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, where he serves as a member of the Trust. 

Cathy Stone is president of the James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Foundation. She earned her B.A. and J.D. from American University and an L.L.M. from Georgetown University Law Center. She was of counsel and a past partner of the Boston law firm Foley, Hoag & Eliot where her practice encompassed environmental and administrative law issues. In 1994, she was appointed as the City of Boston's first chief of environmental services. While serving as chief, she helped launch "Sustainable Boston" and was part of the team that created the Boston Harbor Islands National Park. Since 1994, Cathy has served as a commissioner for the Boston Water and Sewer Commission. She also serves on the board of directors for Boston Harbor Now, the Wilderness Society, and WBUR Boston, and as a member of the Honorary Committee of the Museum of African American History (MAAH) Stone Book Award and the Advisory Committee of the School of Public Policy & Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. Previously, she served as chair of the board of directors for the Museum of African American History and as a member of the board of The Nature Conservancy, National Public Radio, the Supreme Court Historical Society, and MATCH Public Charter High School. In 2006 she received the Eleanor Roosevelt Following In her Footsteps Award and in 2017 she received the Norman B. Leventhal Excellence in City Building Award.

More About This Extraordinary Gift

Jim Stone describes his interest in income and wealth inequality and the role of Graduate Center students and faculty, who are part of the Stone Center, in addressing the issue.

Professor Janet Gornick explains why this new gift is particularly meaningful for the Stone Center, its postdoctoral scholars and graduate students, and its research.

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