Nobel Prize Winning Economist Talks Income Inequality to Students

By Sara Schabe

Nobel Laureate of Economics, Dr. Paul Krugman, spoke about Income Inequality to students, faculty and members of the local community on Wednesday, Feb. 10. This event was hosted by the Honors College.

The presentation covered the concept of income inequality among social classes and the lack of income distribution in a lot of rather developed nations, while also touching upon the idea that income inequality doesn’t actually hurt economic anIMG_1380d societal growth as many may assume.

Krugman, a Long Island native, was initially drawn to economics because of his interest in Science Fiction as a teenager. He explains that the Foundation novels by Isaac Asimov inspired him. “The books were about a social scientist that saves civilization and that’s what I wanted to do. Economics was the closest thing,” Krugman said, “Economics is a quantitative concept, yet it is still about people and society.”

Receiving his undergrad at Yale and his PhD at MIT, Krugman went further into the world of economics. Since, he has been involved in publishing over 20 books and more than 200 professional articles. He writes a biweekly column for The New York Times and he was also an economist under the Ronald Reagan administration. In 2008, he received the Nobel Prize for Economics.

Students were honored to have someone with a distinguished reputation but had a hard time understanding some concepts outlined in the presentation. Justin Lerner, a student of the Honors College said, “While it certainly was an honor to have a Nobel Prize winning economist speak at our school, I found myself to be rather confused through certain points of the presentation.” Lerner further explained that, “Unless you were studying business or finance, it can be seen why it would be difficult to follow along, as many people, myself included, aren’t well rounded in the economic field.”

Despite the difficulty seen by some to follow the presentation, it was still seen as a great and rewarding experience by students and faculty alike. Honors College professor and adviser Albin Cofone said, “I just think it’s maybe the only opportunity in your life (hopefully not) to be in the same room as a Nobel Prize winner. I think that’s pretty cool.”

Cofone was not the only faculty member to find this experience to be enriching. John Bockino, professor of Economics explained that in his 42 years here, this was only the second Nobel Prize winner to speak at Suffolk. The first was Elie Wiesel, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, in April of 1998. One thing Bockino found especially important in Krugman’s speech was, “As he was speaking, you were able to see that there are no simple answers to problems. Not in economics or even in life.”

Krugman certainly explained in his presentation that the issue of income inequality is one that has been worked on for years and even still, people aren’t sure what to exactly do about it. One remark Krugman made was, “If someone tells you that he or she knows why income inequality has rise and it’s because this [person] did something, that’s an indication that they have no idea what they’re talking about.” He went on further to explain that we have in fact made discoveries in this area but it still primarily remains a mystery.

Another issue outlined in the presentation was the debate surrounding the increasing of minimum wage. “Common thought about raising minimum wage is labor costs will rise so unemployment will too, but there has been little to no evidence to prove this to be true,” Krugman explained.

The presentation given was an opportunity for students to get a little more insight into the economic world, despite possibly having little to no previous knowledge, and to listen to a Nobel Prize winner speak. “This was such a great honor,” Bockino explained, “Seeing someone who is so successful in their field is a great way to show students that by working hard, they can potentially become as successful. Being exposed to these kind of experiences is what college is all about.”

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