Kim Christensen

BA, Earlham College (economics and peace/global studies).  PhD, University of Massachusetts-Amherst (political economy). Taught economics and women’s/gender studies (1985-2010) at SUNY-Purchase, where she  received several awards for her teaching: the four-time recipient of the Students’ Union Award for Outstanding Teaching in the Letters and Sciences, the first recipient of the President’s Award for Innovative Pedagogy, and, in 1992, the recipient of the state-wide SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Distinguished College Teaching. She has also taught economics, labor history, and public policy as a guest faculty member at Sarah Lawrence College. Dr. Christensen’s research focuses on the intersection of economics with public policy issues, with a particular emphasis on issues of race, gender, class, and labor; e.g., the experiences of low-income women in the AIDS crisis, the politics of welfare “reform,” the “gendered” nature of the current recession, and the impact of our campaign finance system on public policy. SLC, 2008—

Current undergraduate courses

Political Economy of Women

Year

What factors determine the status of women in different societies and communities? What role is played by women’s labor, both inside and outside of the home? By cultural norms regarding sexuality and reproduction? By religious traditions? After a brief theoretical grounding, this course will address these questions by examining the economic, political, social, and cultural histories of women in the various racial/ethnic and class groupings that make up the United States. Topics to be explored include: the role of women in the Iroquois Confederation before white colonization and the factors that gave Iroquois women significant political and social power in their communities; the status of white colonist women in Puritan Massachusetts and the economic, religious, and other factors that led to the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692; the position of African American women under slavery, including the gendered and racialized divisions of labor and reproduction; the growth of competitive capitalism in the North and the development of the “cult of true womanhood” in the rising middle class; the economic and political changes that accompanied the Civil War and Reconstruction and the complex relationships between African American and white women in the abolitionist and women’s rights movements; the creation of a landless agricultural labor force and the attempts to assimilate Chicana women into the dominant culture via “Americanization” programs; the conditions that encouraged Asian women’s immigration and their economic and social positions once here; the American labor movement and the complicated role that organized labor has played in the lives of women of various racial/ethnic groups and classes; the impact of US colonial policies on Puerto Rican migration and Puerto Rican women’s economic and political status on both the Island and the mainland; the economic/political convulsions of the 20th century, from the trusts of the early 1900s to World War II, and their impact on women’s paid and unpaid labor; the impact of changes in gendered economic roles on LGBT communities; the economic and political upheavals of the 1960s that led to the so-called “second wave” of the women’s movement; and the current position of women in the US economy and polity and the possibilities for inclusive public policies concerning gender and family issues.

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Related Cross-Discipline Paths

Previous courses

Economics of Health

Spring

This course will examine many of the major issues facing the American health care system from a variety of economic perspectives. A wide range of topics will be covered, from the racial and economic disparities in health outcomes to the Patient Protection Act and alternative modes of financing of the medical care delivery system. Students will learn how the tools and analytic approaches used by economists can enhance the understanding of major public-health issues such as AIDS, reproductive care, and mental health, as well as key health care financing issues such as the rising cost of health care and our fragmented insurance system.

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Economics of Health - Graduate

Spring

This course will examine many of the major issues facing the American health care system from a variety of economic perspectives. A wide range of topics will be covered, from the racial and economic disparities in health outcomes to the Patient Protection Act and alternative modes of financing of the medical care delivery system. Students will learn how the tools and analytic approaches used by economists can enhance the understanding of major public-health issues such as AIDS, reproductive care, and mental health, as well as key health care financing issues such as the rising cost of health care and our fragmented insurance system.

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First-Year Studies: From the Great Society to the Great Recession: The Economics and Politics of Inequality in America

FYS

Between 1947 and 1974, the productivity of the average American worker rose by approximately 104%—and the wages of the average American worker rose by 104%. But between 1975 and 2008, while productivity nearly doubled, real wages remained stagnant or even declined. What changed? This course will examine varying explanations for the rise of economic inequality in American life, including globalization/outsourcing, technological change, the influence of money on public policy, and the plummeting rate of private-sector unionization. We’ll examine the economic impact of this rising inequality, including its contribution to the recent financial/economic crisis. Finally, we’ll examine the impact of increasing inequality on our political process, including the rise of movements such as the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street.

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Introduction to Economic Theory and Policy

Year

Economics has a profound impact on all of our lives—from where we live and go to school to what we do for a living, how we dress, how we entertain ourselves. Economics is also crucially intertwined with the social and political issues that we care about—from global warming to poverty and discrimination. This yearlong course introduces a variety of approaches to economics—including neoclassical, Keynesian, behavioralist, Marxian, and feminist—and encourages students to apply these contrasting perspectives to current economic issues. We conclude with an exploration of the causes and consequences of the recent financial and economic crisis. 

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This Time Is Different: Money and Financial Crises in Historical Perspective

Year

This course will explore the functions and meanings of money from the earliest known use of trading accounts in ancient Ur to the world financial crisis of 2008 and beyond. After a brief foray into the theory and mechanics of money, we will begin by addressing a variety of historical issues, including: the changing role of money and credit in pre-capitalist economic systems; the role of money and credit in medieval Europe and in Europe’s transition to capitalism; the relationship between hegemonic international powers (e.g., Pax Britanica) and international currency systems; the US banking disaster of the late 1920s/early 1930s and the changing role of the state vis-à-vis US banking (e.g., the Glass Steagall Act); postwar Pax Americana and the Bretton Woods system, including the development of modern tools of monetary policy; globalization, neoliberalism, and the increasing incidence of international currency crises; currency crises in developing countries (e.g., the Mexican and Asian crises); the IMF’s structural adjustment policy responses and their implications for development; a detailed analysis of the 2008 world financial crisis and of the US and international responses (e.g., TARP, CCAR, Fed “special facilities,” and Dodd-Frank); and the tools of and prospects for stabilizing the domestic and international financial systems in the wake of 2008 (e.g., Basel III). Along the way, we’ll address a variety of theoretical issues from both orthodox and heterodox perspectives. In addition to regular short papers on a variety of assigned readings, students will work in groups to research and make presentations on topics related to international finance (e.g., the Swedish banking crisis of the early 1990s and that government’s response); Islamic banking and finance: its meanings and dynamics; questions of currency exchange rate manipulation for purposes of competitive advantage (e.g., the Chinese renminbi); and the viability and future of the Euro.

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Work and Workers’ Movements in the Globalized Political Economy

Year

What is the situation of workers today? How does their situation differ by race, gender, sexual orientation, nativity/country of origin? How have workers attempted to improve their status—both through unions and related movements and through lobbying for changes in government policy? And how has increased globalization (with accompanying increases in capital flight and immigration) impacted these issues? This course will address these topics from a theoretical, historical, and legal/public policy perspective, with an eye to contextualizing and understanding current-day labor struggles. As part of the requirements for the course, students will be expected to engage in, and reflect upon, a service-learning project with a New York City labor-related organization such as an immigrant worker center, a labor union, or an advocacy organization. 

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