£5m donation for centre for study of wealth concentration, inequality and economy

University College London

The James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Foundation has made a £5 million ($7 million) donation to establish the James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Centre on Wealth Concentration, Inequality and the Economy at UCL.

rich and poor road signs with arrows pointing in opposite directions

Societal concerns over wealth inequality have never been greater. The mission of the Stone Centre at UCL will be to advance research and teaching to provide a clear understanding of the causes of wealth inequality and its economic and political consequences.

The gift will support the existing Curriculum Open-access Resources in Economics (CORE) project and fund research and teaching, creating a global hub that will transform economics education.

The Centre will make education and research equal partners in the venture. It pairs up the CORE project, which is changing economics education globally to a focus on the most important problems faced by our societies, with the research powerhouse of the UCL Economics Department. It will provide a global hub for research and learning that will make wealth concentration and its impacts on innovation and sustainability central to an economics education.

Taking a broad and fresh perspective, the Centre will bring new theory, evidence, and data to understand better the causes and consequences of concentrated material wealth, and to devise policy interventions to mitigate the extent and adverse consequences. These include disparities not only in living standards but also in voice and dignity as revealed most recently by experiences in the pandemic.

The Centre will work closely with UCL’s new Policy Lab (a collaboration between UCL’s Economics and Political Science departments) to take the research findings, policy advice and new educational resources to a wide audience including policy makers, the media and public and private sector leaders.

Benefits from the Centre’s work will extend beyond the social sciences, with implications for teaching and research in a large number of disciplines, including Political Science, Geography, Education, Built Environment, Public Health, History, Ethics and Area Studies.

The co-directors of the Centre are Wendy Carlin, Professor of Economics and Founding Director of the CORE project and Imran Rasul, Professor of Economics and Co-director of the ESRC Centre for the Microeconomic Analysis of Public Policy at IFS.

The Stone Centre at UCL will begin its work this autumn.

Jim Stone recalls (in a recent book-length letter to his children): “The realization at age 13 that some people were endowed with great hereditary status and wealth while other souls, sometimes worthier and abler, went hungry was enough to set my compass. All else followed from that.” He adds to that thought now: “My wife Cathy and I share the view that the study of wealth inequality is worthy of our greatest philanthropic commitment.”

Thanking Jim and Cathy Stone, Dr Michael Spence, UCL President & Provost, said:

“The pandemic has brought the issue of economic equality and wealth distribution into sharp focus and tackling economic inequalities and their impacts will be a core part of building a fairer post-Covid world globally. This is an extremely timely intervention and will be a transformative addition to UCL’s work to advance equality and social justice in the UK and worldwide. I’m delighted to see the Centre established here and am hugely grateful to Jim and Cathy Stone for their generosity, vision and ambition.”

Welcoming the gift from the Foundation, Professor Sasha Roseneil, Dean of UCL Social and Historical Sciences and Pro Provost (Equity and Inclusion), said:

“One of the most important aspects of the Stone Centre at UCL is its foundational intention to develop a rigorous programme of education about wealth inequality based on the research of the Centre. This will ensure that the next generation of economists will be equipped to develop effective policies to tackle this urgent problem. This makes the establishment of the Stone Centre not just a generous and transformative gift to UCL, but, more importantly, a great gift to future generations.”

Professor Sir Angus Deaton, Nobel Laureate in economics, said:

“It is hard to imagine a better time for a new Centre focused on wealth inequality. Wealth was for too long under-researched, under-measured, and under-taught in economics, and yet understanding who has it, who does not, and why, is central to an understanding of how economies serve or do not serve their members. I send a warm and enthusiastic welcome to the James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Centre at UCL.”

Dani Rodrik, Harvard University and president, International Economic Association, said:

“This is a wonderful initiative that will add considerable strength to UCL’s distinguished research and teaching on inequality and the economy. I am especially delighted that it will broaden the global reach of CORE, to bring economics teaching into the 21st century.”

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