Insights Blog

2019 Annual Report

July 16, 2020

SCEPA's 2019 annual report documents how we bring reality into conventional economics by providing alternatives to mainstream thinking, empowering policymakers with economic insights, and creating lasting change for everyone. 

The report explores the work of our three projects challenging conventional economic paradigms: the Retirement Equity Lab, Economics of Climate Change, and Critical Public Finance. 


In its third year, our Retirement Equity Lab (ReLab), led by SCEPA Director and retirement expert Teresa Ghilarducci, which researchers the causes and consequences of the retirement crisis, continued to publish original and strategic research, make an impact on the ground, and host events, including one in partnership with AARP NY to discuss disrupting racial and ethnic disparities among New Yorkers' retirement readiness. ReLab also worked in coalition with the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) to advance the need for retirement reform and Guaranteed Retirment Accounts (GRAs). With a list of 28 endorsements from elected officials and thought leaders, including Martin Luther King III, the coalition is working to educate policy makers on Capitol Hill and ensure retirement security is on the agenda for the 2020 presidential race. In June of 2019, the coalition sponsored a congressional briefing focused on key policy solutions for the ongoing retirement crisis.

On February 28, 2019, SCEPA and EPI met with U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (OH) on Capitol Hill to discuss the need for retirement reform and share Teresa Ghilarducci's proposal for Guaranteed Retirement Accounts. (From left to right) EPI's Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Elyse Eshelman, Senator Brown, SCEPA's Teresa Ghilarducci and Bridget Fisher, and EPI's Thea Lee.

Another highlight for ReLab in the 2019 fiscal year was the launch of our podcast, "Reset Retirement," which reflects our efforts to broaden our audience and create a retirement system that works for everyone. Host and SCEPA Director Teresa Ghilarducci spoke to people of all ages — millenials, mid-career professionals, and near and longtime retirees — whose stories show how our "do it yourself" retirement system is failing. By lifting up real stories of retirement savings, we can move past blaming individuals to see how our retirement system is letting down the majority of Americans. After hearing from people about their experiences, the podcast features a roundtable discussion with experts including advocates, economists, and union leaders, about how savers' real experiences relate to our broken retirement system, and what we can do to reform it. 


Our Economics of Climate Change project continued to determine and explore the consequences of climate change policy proposals on domestic and global economies. In fiscal year 2019, project director and SCEPA economist Willi Semmler co-authored an IMF working paper modeling the effect of climate disasters, as well as a report evaluating the IMF. Two climate change events also discussed timely issues including the challenges to labor posed by climate change and how inequality and climate change impede sustainable growth. 

Economics of Climate Change speaker Reiner Hoffman (middle), Director of the European Trade Union Institute and State District Leader of the IG BCE North Rhein, joins a panel with Assistant Secretary-General and Head of the UN Environment New York Office Satya Tripathi (left) moderated by Willi Semmler (right).

Lastly, our newly created Critical Public Finance project, which investigates the effects of increasing financialization of municipal finance on government transparency and accountability as well as urban inequality, saw exciting growth and success in fiscal year 2019. Led by Associate Director Bridget Fisher, this project released timely and impactful research on the cost of New York City's Hudson Yards, a project promised to be "self-financing" which ended up costing the city $2.2 billion in debt costs, cost overruns & spillovers, and tax breaks. These findings received attention from media including The Guardian, CityLab, and The New York Times.

On June 10th, 2019, Fisher (2nd from the right) presented her research on the financing of Hudson Yards at a debate on the projects planning and process sponsored by the Urban Design Forum.

SCEPA is committed to engaging in the issues that affect Americans’ economic well-being and support our hopes for a better future. We are grateful for the generosity of our supporters and partners in these efforts and are excited to share our progress during the 2019 fiscal year with you.