10 Things To Know About Influential Economist Dr. Darrick Hamilton

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Written by Ann Brown
Hamilton
Here are 10 things to know about leading economist and reparations advocate Dr. Darrick Hamilton, who is helping to shape economic policy. (Photo: Flickr)

One of the country’s leading economists, Dr. Darrick Hamilton focuses on examining racial wealth disparities and solutions. He has helped shape economic policy, advised members of Congress and advocated for reparations.

Currently the executive director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University, Hamilton is set to rejoin The New School, a private New York university, in January 2021 as a professor of economics and urban policy.

Here are 10 things you should know about the influential economist.

Do-or-die Bed-Sty

Hamilton was born and raised in the infamous Bedford- Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, known for its tough environment. He graduated from Oberlin College, Ohio, and earned a Ph.D. in economics from the University of North Carolina.

Baby bonds and the wealth gap

Hamilton proposed that baby bonds — trust accounts for children — could be a way to help close the wealth gap between Black people and white. Baby bonds could significantly reduce the racial wealth gap and establish federal economic policies for a person’s entire lifespan, Hamilton said.

Under Hamilton’s baby bonds plan, the federal government would establish a trust fund at birth ranging from $1,000 to $50,000 for every child.

Baby bonds could be set up by the federal government when a child is born and managed by the government until the child becomes a young adult, Urban Next 50 reported.

The amount of money invested in a Baby Bond depends on the financial situation of the baby’s family.

Although baby bonds do not explicitly consider the child’s race, because the criteria for inclusion is wealth, and because wealth is so unevenly distributed across races, we will be hard-pressed to not end up investing more money into baby bonds for children of color than for white kids,” Hamilton told Urban Next 50. “The thing to remember, however, is that we are talking about wealth at the median. Over time, Baby Bonds will address the racial wealth gap at the median.”

On the Bernie bandwagon

Hamilton announced his endorsement of the-presidential candidate Barnie Sanders on YouTube. Hamilton said, “Senator Sanders recognizes that we need a movement that is not simply great policies that are going to get us to the society we want, but rather we need to build up a movement.” 

Before Sanders dropped out of the race, Hamilton was a surrogate and advisor for the Sanders presidential campaign.

Shaping economic policy

Hamilton is a member of the economic committee of the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force — an advisory group of prominent Democratic leaders and public policy experts that aims to shore up Democratic Party unity ahead of the November general election. He has testified before the Senate and House Joint Economic Committee on potential policy responses to the covid-19 pandemic-induced health and economic crises, according to The New School.

Reparations today

Hamilton is also a reparations activist. He has often teamed up with renowned reparations activist Dr. William “Sandy” Darity to speak and write about reparations. 

Reparations are more than needed today, according to Hamilton. “Well, one clear problem is the staggering racial wealth gap, but it extends beyond that,” Hamilton told NPR. “It’s narratives about inequality more generally. It gets rid of this notion of blacks being undeserving. If we really had a sobering confession of our past and understood how we got here, then we could change narratives not just for black people but poor people in general. We could see resources are really key in people’s lives.”

Reparations funds

The question is often asked, if there are reparations, how would they be doled out? 

“The redress in the form of a check — there’s nothing wrong with unconditional cash,” Hamilton told NPR. “But we know that if one group of people does not own the means of production, it could have an unintended detrimental effect that enhances inequality. So reparations can be done in the form of land transfers and as well as the means of production. And there’s certainly precedent in American history. I mean, we can look at the Homestead Act. We can look at New Deal policies.”

Heading to The New School

Hamilton will rejoin The New School on Jan. 1, 2021 as the founding director of the newly created Institute for the Study of Race, Stratification and Political Economy.

“I am returning at a pivotal moment, when we are reconceiving the roles of our government, our economy and our money in defining people’s lives,” Hamilton said. “Universities have a moral responsibility to lead in these efforts and students are the facilitators of the changes that will bring about a more just and equitable future.”

Prior to rejoining The New School, Hamilton will finish his tenure at the Kirwan Institute. Hamilton previously spent 15 years on The New School faculty in a dual role as professor of economics and urban policy at The New School’s Milano School of Policy, Management and Environment and New School for Social Research.

Intellectual giant

Hamilton has advised numerous members of Congress including the Senators Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, and Elizabeth Warren. California Rep. Ro Khanna once characterized Hamilton as having had a “profound impact on policymakers” and called him an “intellectual giant of his time,” according to Mother Jones magazine.

Covid-19 disparities

Hamilton recently co-authored a paper proposing that the U.S. government adopt a number of public policy measures to redress economic losses suffered by Black and brown communities during the covid-19 pandemic, according to The New School News. In the paper, he suggested the federal government provide a federal job guarantee by directly hiring millions of workers in a livable wage job with benefits and decent working conditions as a basic human right.

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Government policies widened the racial wealth gap

Government policies have not helped to close the racial wealth gap, according to Hamilton. In fact, he said, they have hindered Black people and helped create a white middle class, but did little to grow a Black middle class. For example, FHA loans were less available to Black people, especially in the Jim Crow South, he told U.S. News & World Report. Add to this the policy of redlining – the practice of refusing to rent or make home loans available to African-Americans. There is also evidence, Hamilton said, that the G.I. Bill for World War II returning veterans was not used to help Black veterans as much as whites.