Professor Richard McGahey, PERE Visiting Scholar 2014
by Julia Kelson
In the summer of 2014, PERE welcomed visiting scholar Rick McGahey to our team. Rick joined us from The New School, where he serves as Director of the Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management Program and Professor of Professional Practice in Public Policy and Economics at the Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy.
A respected scholar of economic development, Rick has experience in both the public and private sectors, including time at the Ford Foundation and many years spent in local, state and federal government positions. He served as Economic Policy Advisor to Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), and as Assistant Secretary for Policy at the U.S. Department of Labor in the Clinton Administration. He earned a PhD in Economics from the New School for Social Research and has taught at New York University, John Jay College and the George Washington University.
Research Interests and Project Description
Rick loves to watch big ideas turn into effective policies. Joining PERE for the summer, he came to dig deep into how ideas for promoting equitable growth in American cities have panned out – what’s gone right, what’s gone wrong, and what lessons other cities can learn moving forward.
During his time here, Rick conducted interviews and on the ground research to learn about strategies and policies implemented in Los Angeles – a city he calls a leader and innovator in the movement for equitable growth. His research examines labor standards, the minimum wage and other ways to raise incomes, and economic development and environmental innovations spearheaded by organizations like LAANE and SCOPE.
Along with L.A., Rick will also conduct research in New York City and Detroit. He chose to focus on these cities because they have very different labor markets, organizing cultures, and histories of progressive social change.
“Ultimately,” he says, “I hope to develop a framework for figuring out what organizations and cities can accomplish on their own, and when they need policy – at the regional, state or federal level –to step in and help.”
He is also examining cases where nonprofits and organizing groups that don’t usually work together—such as labor, environmental, and community development groups-- have formed alliances, and how those alliances have aided equitable growth.
Rick’s research will culminate in a book for Columbia University Press that helps other cities forge their own paths toward pairing equity with economic growth. In New York, he is working with the New York Central Labor Council on policy ideas to create more jobs with equity that also improve environmental sustainability. His hope is that this will help open wider channels of discussion between policy makers and progressive economists.
During his time in Los Angeles, Rick has been particularly excited to learn about programs that turn powerful ideas into practical policy – such as the city’s new garbage and recycling initiative – and to talk to the people who have worked to bridge this divide. He is eager to bring what he has learned here in L.A. back to New York City in the fall, where he will return to his posts at The New School.