Explores intersection of human rights and economic policy
James Heintz ’01 PhD, the Andrew Glyn Professor of Economics, is the rare economist who looks beyond rates of growth, employment, and other macroeconomic indicators to learn how they affect human rights. He is a leader in examining the intersection of economic policy and rights such as access to housing, food, and health care. “We evaluate policies based on economic growth or jobs but no one asks how the policies impact on people’s lives in ways that matter to them,” says Heintz.
He has been breaking new ground by challenging the assumption that social justice follows economic growth. “Economic and social rights are routinely overlooked. This is unfortunate because these sets of rights provide powerful tools to assess and conduct economic policy,” explains Heintz, the Glyn professor since 2014. An anonymous donor and a matching campus fund created the professorship. It is one of 11 newly endowed professorships established through the UMass Rising Campaign.
The endowed professorship allows Heintz, who teaches both undergraduates and graduates, to devote more time to research and to participate in international forums, including presenting papers to the United Nation’s General Assembly. “The fact that you have a named professorship raises your profile. It is seen as distinguished,” says Heintz.
“The scope for original and creative thinking within economics at UMass Amherst is much bigger than you will find in any other place.” —Professor James Heintz
He says he was drawn to UMass Amherst to earn his doctorate based on the heterodoxical composition of the economics department. “The scope for original and creative thinking within economics at UMass Amherst is much bigger than you will find in any other place,” he explains. Prior to his appointment as a faculty member in the economics department, Heintz was a research professor at the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) where he also served as an associate director. PERI is an independent research center housed on campus and allied with the UMass Amherst economics department.
His work at PERI focused on gender equality in the United States and sub-Saharan Africa and evolved to studying how economic policy affects human rights. Though the cohort examining human rights and economic policy is small, the world will learn more about their findings. Heintz and colleagues in the United States and United Kingdom will soon have a book on the topic. New thinking on analyzing economic policy within a human rights framework will have implications for how governments allocate resources and whether people around the world can lead lives free of injustice.