Frank Levy

Professor Emeritus

Who I am

I am an  economist, retired from teaching  and department meetings but not research. I am currently a Faculty Affiliate in the Strategy Group of the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University where I am working on computers' impacts on jobs, living standards  and politics.  

l am married to Katherine Swartz, an economist recently retired from the Harvard School of Public Health, who works on issues of long-term care. We have two children Dave (and his wife Kelly) and Marin, and we have four outstanding grandchildren: Andrew (nine years old as of September, 2022), Ben eight years old), Emma (eight years old) and Sam (six 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. 

Recent and Current Projects

My research focuses on- how artificial intelligence, trade, institutions and politics shape specific labor markets. Recent work began with 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 2020 paper growing out of this work is Warehousing, Trucking and Technology: The Future of Work in Logistics (with Arshia Mehta), part of MIT's Work of the Future initiative. A related paper   "Computers and Populism", (Oxford Economic Review, June 2018)  projects the near-term, U.S. impacts of technologies including autonomous trucking, automated customer service responses and industrial robotics.   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.  Other recent work includes a four part history of how U.S. radiologists are reimbursed ( with Dr. Max Rosen of UMass Memorial Hospital/Medical School) published in the  Journal of the American College of Radiology , June - September 2020.

My current project, joint with Scott Abrahams,  traces how the 1979 structural shift in U.S. production changed the country's political/economic landscape. In 1979, U.S. the number of U.S. manufacturing jobs reached an historical peak. In the same year, the earnings premium for having a BA, rather than a high school diploma, was at a nadir. Over the next 40 years, manufacturing employment declined significantly while the BA earnings premium rose significantly. We trace the economic and political impact of these trends on the 722 Commuting Zones that cover the continental United States. A paper will be available before the end of the year.