Frank Levy

Who I am.

I am an  economist, retired from teaching  and department meetings but not much else. I am currently a Faculty Affiliate in the Strategy Group of the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University, where I work on computers' impact on jobs and living standards. I also serve  on the Research Advisory Committee of MIT's Initiative on the Work of the Future. 

l am married to Katherine Swartz, an economist recently retired from the Harvard School of Public Health, now at Duke's Sanford School. We have two children Dave (and his wife Kelly) and Marin (and her husband Joseph) and we have four outstanding grandchildren: Andrew (seven years old as of April, 2020), Ben (six years old), Emma (five years old) and Sam (four years old). 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. Kathy and I now live most of the year in Durham, NC. 

Current Projects

Most of my research focuses on the near-term future of work  - how artificial intelligence, institutions and politics will shape specific labor markets over the next decade. I am currently using interviews and data to understand how technology might effect the Triad Region of North Carolina (Greensboro, High Point and Winston-Salem)  and how the impacts compare to the impacts of trade-related job losses of twenty years ago.  A recent paper projects the near-term, non-geographic, impacts of technologies including autonomous trucking, automated customer service responses and industrial robotics. The working paper is available on SSRN at this link  "Computers and Populism" and was published in June 2018 in the Oxford Review of Economic Policy.   A  paper, co-authored with Dana Remus. examines the proposition that much of lawyers' work will soon be automated. The paper is available on SSRN at this link -  "Can Robots be Lawyers?: Computers, Lawyers and the Practice of Law"  - and was published in Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics in September, 2017.  With Dr. Max Rosen of UMass Memorial Hospital/Medical School, I have also worked on the economic history of the U.S. medical imaging industry. A series of four short articles on how radiologists are paid will appear in consecutive issues of Journal of the American College of Radiology  in late 2020.  

Older 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

In addition to the work with Rosen, the "Sharp Slowdown in Growth of Medical Imaging" co-authored with David Lee of GE Healthcare, appeared in the August 2012 edition of Health Affairs and documents how policy managed to slow the growth of advanced imaging utilization (Abstract). Earlier papers include "Offshoring Professional Services" with Kyoung He Yu, describing the Indian teleradiology industry  (British Journal of Industrial Relations).  "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" (American Journal of Roentology) where I trace the impact of digitized imaging on the radiologist's job and the radiology job market.

Wage Stagnation and Economic Inequality

In 2009, Peter Temin and I completed two book chapters explaining the development and subsequent collapse of the economic institutions that helped to achieve a more equitable distribution of economic growth in the years between World War II and the 1980s. A working paper version of the argument is available on SSRN 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.

Areas of Interest
Artificial Intelligence, Economic Development, Machine Learning