Nearly $1 Million Goes to the GC's Stone Center

November 10, 2017

Funds will support the Graduate Center Wealth Project and other initiatives.

We live in an age of increasing wealth concentration. Who holds this wealth and in what forms? How does high-end wealth in the U.S. compare with other rich countries?

These questions and related ones are at the root of the Graduate Center Wealth Project, an ambitious initiative of the Graduate Center's Stone Center on Socio-Economic Inequality. Launched this fall, the project, still in its design phase, aims to:

  • Create a publicly accessible, Web-based, repository for curated information, research, and news related to wealth inequality;

  • Assess and extend data capacity related to household wealth;

  • Contribute to the growing methodological literature on wealth measurement; and

  • Conduct research on high-end wealth in the U.S., compared to other rich countries.

Salvatore Morelli, an Oxford-trained economist and inequality scholar, joined the Graduate Center this fall to lead the project in coordination with Stone Center Director Janet Gornick. For the next two years, Morelli will serve as a visiting assistant professor at the Graduate Center, Stone Center senior scholar, and distinguished fellow at the Graduate Center's Advanced Research Collaborative (ARC).

Morelli brings an extensive background in researching the economics of income and wealth distribution. His scholarly work on the evolution and measurement of economic inequality across countries is highly regarded. He has also investigated the empirical and theoretical foundation of the view that inequality may contribute to economic and financial instability.
"We are excited that Salvatore has arrived at the Graduate Center and that he will contribute his expertise to shaping our wealth project," said Gornick.

Morelli and Gornick will draw on the expertise of the other members of the Stone Center senior team -- Miles Corak, Paul Krugman, Leslie McCall, and Branko Milanovic.

Wealth concentration among the affluent is a large focus of the Wealth Project. "This is where the most substantial knowledge gaps remain due to the difficulty and complexity of identifying, locating, and quantifying wealth held by the very rich," Gornick said. "In December 2016, a group of 25 of the world's top experts on wealth research met for two days at the Graduate Center to brainstorm about possible directions for this project, and the Stone Center team will draw heavily on that group's advice as the project moves forward."

The Stone Center's work on wealth will be supported by new resources, including an additional gift of $500,000 from Jim and Cathy Stone, the Boston-based philanthropists whose $2.5 million gift launched the Center; a $100,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to strengthen the center's activities in the area of public information; and a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The NSF grant will fund the creation of a powerful online table-maker, which will feature data visualization capacity. The tool will be lodged at LIS, the cross-national data archive in Luxembourg with which the Stone Center is affiliated.

For over 30 years, LIS has served as a go-to scholarly source of microdata on income and wealth. The new NSF-funded tool will make LIS more broadly accessible to students, journalists, and policy practitioners, among others.
"We are deeply grateful for these new and generous resources, which will augment our work," Gornick said. "We look forward to sharing the important results from this project in the coming years."