MacArthur Fellowship Awarded to Nancy Folbre, UMass Amherst Economics Professor

May 28, 1998

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AMHERST, Mass. - University of Massachusetts economics Professor Nancy Folbre has been awarded a $280,000, five-year fellowship by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Folbre, who says she was delighted and thrilled to receive the so-called "genius grant," is an economist whose work looks at how non-market production contributes to human and community development and economic growth. Her research focuses on the family, the work roles of family members, and on the relationships among those roles.

"My work develops a new interface between feminist theory and political economy," Folbre explains. She says the award will be used to fund her ongoing research which explores the reasons why the work of parents, teachers, nurses, and others who provide "caring labor" is undervalued and underpaid. Folbre also plans to help support the activities of the Center for Popular Economics, a local collective that teaches economic literacy to political activists and organizers.

Cora B. Marrett, UMass vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost, says the award is excellent news for Folbre, and for the University. "The MacArthur awards recognize the most talented individuals nationally and the campus is very proud to have Professor Folbre carry on the tradition of previous fellows here at the University," Marrett says. Others with UMass ties who have been awarded MacArthur grants include: John Edgar Wideman, English; Max Roach, former adjunct professor of music; Marc Shell, former comparative literature professor; and three alumni from the master’s program in regional planning: Maria Varela, Wesley Jacobs, and Unita Blackwell.

Gerald Epstein, chairman of the UMass department of economics, says Folbre is an outstanding economist and scholar. "She is doing truly path-breaking work on a long-neglected but critical issue: the role of caring labor in our society," Epstein says. "On top of this, Professor Folbre is a gifted teacher and tireless, generous, and effective public citizen in the economics department."

The MacArthur Fellowships are unrestricted, no-strings-attached awards to individuals, not projects or organizations, and recipients are free to use them as they wish. "The creative person is at the heart of a society’s capacity to improve the human condition," says Adele Simmons, MacArthur Foundation president. "By supporting these highly talented individuals working in a wide range of fields, the foundation means to honor creative persons everywhere." A total of 531 fellows have been named since the MacArthur Foundation began the program in 1981.

Folbre is the author of several books, including: "A Field Guide to the U.S. Economy" (1995); "Who Pays for the Kids?" (1994); and "War on the Poor: A Defense Manual" (1996). Folbre is also the co-chair of the research network on families and the economy sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation, and a member of the editorial board of the journal "Feminist Economics."

Folbre received her bachelor’s (1971) and master’s (1973) degrees from the University of Texas, and earned her Ph.D. in 1979 from the department in which she now teaches at UMass. She joined the faculty in 1984, after teaching at Bowdoin College and the New School for Social Research. Folbre calls herself a "totally UMass person, a graduate of, as well as a teacher in the best heterodox economics department in the country."

Folbre was a visiting scholar at the Gender Institute at the London School of Economics in 1995, and also spent a year teaching at the Ecole Des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, sponsored by the French-American Foundation. She has served as a consultant to the United Nations, The World Bank, the International Labour Organization, The Population Council, and the International Center for Research on Women.