Frank Levy


Who I am.

I am an  economist, retired from teaching  and department meetings but not much else. I am currently a Research Associate in the Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School, where I work on technology's impact on jobs and living standards and on the economics of radiology. In the spring of 2015, I concluded a three year term co-organizing the CSAIL/Economist Seminar series at MIT bringing together computer scientists and economists to better understand computerized work. l am married to Katherine Swartz, an economist at the Harvard School of Public Health. We have two children Dave (and his wife Kelly) and Marin (and her husband Joseph) and we have three outstanding grandchildren: Andrew (33 months as of December 2015), Ben (28 months) and Emma (15 months). Before coming to MIT in 1992, I taught for ten years at Cal-Berkeley and eleven years at the University of Maryland at College Park and worked for four years at the Urban Institute in Washington DC. In the spring of 2016, I will be a visiting faculty associate at Duke University.

 Current Projects

Over the past year, I have worked with Professor Dana Remus of the UNC School of Law (currently on leave at the Office of the White House Counsel) to examine the proposition that much of lawyers' work will soon be automated. This work to date is summarized in a December 2015 working paper "Can Robots be Lawyers?: Computers, Lawyers and the Practice of Law". -  With Dr. Max Rosen of UMass Memorial Hospital/Medical School, I am currently finishing a book manuscript on the technical/economic history of U.S. medical imaging.  

Other Recent Work

A working paper  'Dropouts, Taxes and Risk: The Economic Return to College under Realistic Assumptions" (with Alan Benson and Raimundo Esteva) demonstrates that standard estimates of the rate of return to college are based on best case assumptions that sometimes overstate returns and, more important, obscures differences in returns among institutions. More realistic assumptions can reasonably inspire caution among some students and their parents depending on what type of institution they attend.  My 2013 paper, Dancing with Robots is coauthored with Richard J. Murnane (The Third Way Foundation) examines the skills needed in a job market that has been reshaped by computerized work and offshoring.  


Radiology Papers

The "Sharp Slowdown in Growth of Medical Imaging" co-authored with David Lee of GE Healthcare, was published in the August 2012 edition of Health Affairs and documents how policy has managed to slow the growth of advanced imaging utilization (Abstract). Earlier papers include "Offshoring Radiology Services to Inidia" (British Journal of Industrial 'Relations),  with Kyoung He Yu, "Computers and the Supply of Radiology Services" (Journal of the American College of Radiology)  in which I argued that computers were increasing competitive pressure on radiologists and "Computers, Conversation, Utilization and Commoditization" (Americal Journal of Roentology) where I trace the impact of digitized imaging on the radiologost's job and the radiology job market.


Wage Stagnation and Economic Inequality

About seven years ago, Peter Temin and I completed two book chapters explaining the development and subsequent collapse of the economic institutions that helped to achieve an equitable distribution of economic growth in the years between World War II and the 1980s. A working paper version of the argument is available here. A short version of the argument was given as the first Bernie Saffran Memorial Lecture at Swarthmore College, November 15, 2007.


The New Division of Labor: How Computers Are Creating the Next Job Market. (with Richard J. Murnane), Princeton University Press, 2004.

The New Dollars and Dreams: American Incomes in the Late 1990s. Russell Sage Foundation, 1999. 

Teaching the New Basic Skills. (with Richard J. Murnane), Basic Books, 1996.