Clair Brown

Clair Brown, PhD, is Professor of Economics emerita and Director of the Center for Work, Technology and Society at the University of California, Berkeley. Brown has published research on many aspects of how economies function, including inequality, sustainability, high-tech industries, the standard of living, and wage determination,. Her books include American Standards of Living, and Chips and Change: How crisis reshapes the semiconductor industry. Her most recent book Buddhist Economics: An enlightened approach to the dismal science (Bloomsbury Press) provides an economic framework that integrates global sustainability, shared prosperity and care for the human spirit. Brown’s research team developed a Sustainable Share-prosperity Policy Index that evaluates 50 countries’ economic policies according to how well they protect the environment (sustainability), structure markets to achieve social goals (equity), and provide basic services and opportunities (wellbeing). One aspect of this work is the development of a measure of economic performance based on the quality of life, and to estimate it for state of California. The Genuine Progress Index (GPI) integrates measurements of inequality and environmental degradation as well as value of nonmarket activities and consumption to provide an inclusive measurement of sustainable economic performance to guide policy. At UCB Brown co-founded a new graduate program called Development Engineering, for students in engineering and economics to develop their multidisciplinary skills for designing, building, and evaluating new technologies to help developing or under-resourced regions.

You can listen to podcasts with Clair here and watch the trailer (2 min) for her book Buddhist Economics. 

Brown’s economic approach is published in Eminent Economists II (Cambridge University Press, 2013).

Clair Brown has also been actively involved in climate justice work or the past decade. Clair Brown volunteered and provided economic analysis and assisted with community advocacy for climate justice organizations, including 350 Bay Area, Fossil Free California, Sierra Club and Earth Justice. With the Sierra Club Bay Area Chapter, Brown worked with No Coal in Richmond (NCIR) to successfully push the Richmond City Council to pass a City Ordinance in 2019 to eliminate the handling and export of coal and petcoke through the city of Richmond and the Port of Richmond. Brown (et al) wrote an analysis of the economic and health impacts of eliminating coal exports. For five years Brown was the co-chair of the 350 Bay Area Action Legislative team, which educated and lobbied Legislators to pass effective and equitable climate policies and worked with state agencies to implement the climate laws to be inclusive and reduce the impact of GHG emissions on vulnerable communities. Blogs she wrote on specific bills to educate the public and lawmakers include a bill to electrify landscaping equipment and bills to make businesses accountable for carbon emissions.

Recently Brown (et al) wrote a comment letter to CARB on how the Low Carbon Fuel Standard LCFS could be improved.

Brown’s UC Berkeley student research team worked with Fossil Free California to evaluate the financial risk of state pension funds, especially CalPERS, investing in fossil fuel industry assets. They wrote several academic reports, commented at the CalPERS Board meetings, and worked with lawmakers to draft bills that mandated corporate reporting of their risks related to fossil fuel use, and required divestment of specific fossil fuel assets by the state public pension funds. Here is a recent report.

Brown in coordination with Julia Walsh collaborated with the following Environmental and Climate Justice organizations to produce critiques of transportation analyses and analyses of health and economic costs of oil and gas wells and PM2.5 in California.  These organizations include VISIONS, Center for Biological Diversity, EarthJustice, Center for Race Poverty and the Environment, Sierra Club, Communities for a Better Environment, California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA), National Resources Defense Council, Physicians for Social Responsibility-SF, 350 Bay Area, and Fossil Free California. The CA state agencies to whom these memos were addressed included CalGEM, CARB, BAAQMD, CalEPA, OEHHA, as well as Legislators. Examples of these memos include:

Selected Publications and Products

Buddhist Economics: An Enlightened Approach to the Dismal Science. Bloomsbury Press, February 2017.

“Improving the Genuine Progress Indicator to Measure Comparable Net Welfare: U.S. and California, 1995–2017.” (with Elias Lazarus) Ecological Economics Vol. 202 (Dec 2022): 107605.

“Genuine Progress Indicator for California:  2010-2014” (with Eli Lazarus), Ecological Indicators (October 2018)

Chips and Change: How crisis reshapes the semiconductor industry (with Greg Linden). MIT Press, 2009 (Paperback edition with updated Preface, 2011)

American Standards of Living, 1918-1988. Cambridge: Blackwell, 1994. Data developed reprinted in Millenium Edition of Historical Statistics of the United States.

“Clair Brown: Social Norms in Economics and in the Economics Profession,” Eminent Economists II – Their Life and Work Philosophies, edited by Michael Szenberg (Cambridge University Press, 2013)

Gender in the Workplace (co-editor with Joseph Pechman). “Consumption Norms, Work Roles, and Economic Growth in Urban America, 1918-1980.” In Gender in the Workplace, 13-49. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1987.

“Essay on Buddhist Economics” in Kees Klomb and Shinta Oosterwaal (eds), Thrive: Fundamentals for a New Economy. Amsterdam:  Uitgeverij (Business Contract), 2021.

“Buddhist Economics:  The Foundation for an Equitable, Sustainable, Caring Economy,” Keynote paper presented at Buddhist Values and Economics:  Investing in a Sustainable Future Conference,  Hong Kong University, April 2019.

“Buddhist Economics; A Guide to Creating an Equitable, Sustainable, Caring Market Economy”,  The Spirit of Conscious Capitalism. Contributions of World Religions and Spiritualities (Michel Dion and Moses Pava, eds.) in Ethical Economy. Studies in Economic Ethics and Philosophy series, volume 63, Springer, 2022, p. 361-377.

“Buddhist Economics: creating a sustainable and compassionate economy”, in Rita D. Sherma and Purushottama Bilimoria (eds), Religion & Sustainability: Interreligious Resources, Interdisciplinary Responses. UN Sustainable Development Goals Series,  Springer Nature, 2021.

“Buddhist Economics:  an overview”, Society and Economy (with Laszlo Zsolnai) 40 (2018) 4, pp. 497–513.

“Buddhist Economics: a guide to creating an equitable, sustainable, caring economy” in Romeo Orlandi (ed),  The Soul of Development: Religions and Economy in Southeast Asia. Italia ASEAN, 2018.

Creating Quality of Life in a Sustainable Global Economy. Presentation at Commonwealth Club Panel. May 12, 2016. Podcast

"Quality of Life, Measurements of", in Daniel Thomas Cook and J. Michael Ryan, co-editors, The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Consumption and Consumer Studies, 2014.

Labor in the Era of Globalization. (with Barry Eichengreen, and Michael Reich, eds.) Plus “How Good Are U.S. Jobs? Characteristics of Job Ladders across Firms in Five Industries” (with B. Campbell, F. Andersson, H. Chiang, and Y. Park), Chapter 4. Cambridge, MA:  Cambridge Univ Press, 2010. Selected by the Princeton Industrial Relations Section as one of the Noteworthy Books in Industrial Relations and Labor Economics, 2010.

Economic Turbulence: Is a Volatile Economy Good for America? (with John Haltiwanger and Julia Lane), Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.

“Offshoring in the Semiconductor Industry: A Historical Perspective” (with Greg Linden), in Susan M. Collins and Lael Brainard, eds. Brookings Trade Forum 2005: Offshoring White Collar Work. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press (Ch. 8, pp. 279-333), 2006.

"Semiconductor Engineers in a Global Economy" (with Greg Linden) in National Academy of Engineering, The Offshoring of Engineering: Facts, Unknowns, and Potential Implications. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2008.

“An International Investigation of Problem-Solving Performance in the Semiconductor Industry” (with Melissa Appleyard and Linda Sattler) Journal of Product Innovation Management, 2006. 23: 147-167.

“The Impact of Technological Change on Work and Wages” (with Ben Campbell). Industrial Relations (Winter 2002).

IRLE Publications by Clair Brown

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