HBCU’s, Codeswitching and MMT with Matthew Robinson

Sometimes it seems like economists forget that economics is a social science which is why we’re excited to bring the new generation of MMT to Macro n Cheese. Matthew Robinson is a doctoral student at UMKC, which has been an academic home base to many friends of this podcast, including Mat Forstater who brought Matthew to our attention.

Matthew talks to Steve about the personal and academic journey that led to his current work. As an undergrad at Fresno State, he saw a disconnect between what he was being taught and what he was seeing as a volunteer in the community. The west side of Fresno was a segregated neighborhood, with as much as 20% unemployment — a reality that wasn’t reflected in the textbooks.

At UMKC’s Center for Economic information, there’s a group working on health issues, recognizing that minority neighborhoods experience the worst cases of childhood asthma, lead poisoning, and a myriad of other problems, exacerbated by years of poor housing conditions and inadequate healthcare facilities. Matthew’s area of focus is violent crime, with the understanding that people make certain choices out of necessity.

Reaching out to the community is a great use of economists’ time. It’s a field that isn’t known for advocating for the people most in need. There’s a lot of theory but the least served populations aren’t included in the conversation. Matthew talks about what it means to serve as a support role for those on the front lines.

He is also involved in bringing MMT to the HBCU’s — Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Before the coronavirus pandemic brought things to a standstill, he had been to Morehouse, the alma mater of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, who advocated for a job guarantee more than half a century ago.

There’s no doubt of the value of a federal job guarantee but Matthew talks about the level of skepticism in the Black community. There have been so many promises made, matched only by the numbers of failed results.

In these pessimistic times, our listeners will be encouraged by hearing a voice from this new generation of activist-scholars.

Matthew Robinson is getting his PhD in Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. He went to Fresno State and got his master’s degree at the University of Denver.

@econ_robinson on Twitter

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