Robert H. Frank

H.J. Louis Professor of Management and Professor of Economics, Johnson School of Management, Cornell University; Economics columnist, New York Times
Areas of Expertise:
  • Public Budgets & Taxes
  • Inequality & the Middle Class

About Robert

Frank’s research focuses on the causes and consequences of growing income inequality, and he writes a regular column for the New York Times. He earned a BS in mathematics from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and an MA in statistics and PhD in economics from the University of California at Berkeley. Frank’s 1995 book with Philip Cook was named a notable book by the New York Times. He served as a Peace Corp Volunteer in Nepal and as Chief Economist for the Civil Aeronautics Board. An award-winning teacher, Frank publishes widely for the educated public as well as in academic outlets.




"Does Studying Economics Inhibit Cooperation?" (with Thomas Gilovich and Dennis Regan). Journal of Economic Perspectives 7, no. 2 (1993): 159-171.
Reports research showing that exposure to economic theories stressing self-interest prompt people, including university students, to become more individualistic and less oriented to the common good.
"Progressive Consumption Taxation as a Remedy for the U.S. Savings Shortfall" The Economists’ Voice 2, no. 3 (2005): 178-190.
Argues that declines in the U.S. savings rate result in part from the pressures caused by escalating consumption standards. Rising inequalities of wealth and income make the situation worse. A progressive consumption tax can help to remedy the savings shortfall.
The Winner-Take-All Society (with Philip Cook) (The Free Press, 1995).
Argues that skyrocketing growth in earnings for the top one percent of Americans has been encouraged by the spread of winner-take-all-markets in fields ranging from sports and entertainment to law and finance.
Falling Behind: How Rising Inequality Harms the Middle Class (University of California Press, 2007).
Shows how concentrations of wealth and income at the top have raised the cost of achieving many goals for the middle class, causing people to spend more despite stagnating incomes and carry record levels of debt.
The Darwin Economy (Princeton University Press, 2011).
Far from creating a perfect world, economic competition often encourages behaviors that harm the common good without lasting advantages to individuals. By taxing harmful behaviors, we can make the economic pie larger, eliminate government debt, and provide better public services without demanding painful sacrifices from anyone.

In the News

Robert H. Frank's research on the role of luck in success discussed in Sean IllingRobert H. Frank, "Why the Myth of a Perfect Meritocracy is So Pernicious," Vox, December 15, 2017.
"It’s Not Irrational. It’s Signaling Behavior.," Robert H. Frank, New York Times, August 11, 2017.
"What Comes Next for Obamacare? The Case for Medicare for All," Robert H. Frank, New York Times, March 24, 2017.
"Federal Policy Will Shift. Not All States Will Shift with It.," Robert H. Frank, New York Times, January 20, 2017.
"Handouts with a Twist: Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure," Robert H. Frank, New York Times, November 11, 2016.
Robert H. Frank's research on the spending of the wealthy discussed in Kathy KielyRobert H. Frank, "Why We Should Tax Conspicuous Consumption," Moyers & Company, October 27, 2016.
"The Rich Vote Republican? Maybe Not This Election," Robert H. Frank, New York Times, October 22, 2016.
Robert H. Frank's research on the role of luck in success discussed in Ben StevermanRobert H. Frank, "Why Luck Plays a Big Role in Making You Rich," Bloomberg, September 1, 2016.
"Are You Successful? If So, You’ve Already Won the Lottery," Robert H. Frank, The Upshot, New York Times, May 20, 2016.
Robert H. Frank's research on workplace competition discussed in Noam ScheiberRobert H. Frank, "Work Policies May be Kinder, but Brutal Competition Isn’t," New York Times, August 17, 2015.
Robert H. Frank quoted on comparing public attitudes with inequality trends in Thomas B. Edsall, "Has Obamacare Turned Voters against Sharing the Wealth?" New York Times, April 15, 2015.
Robert H. Frank quoted on income inequality in Patricia Cohen, "Middle Class, but Feeling Economically Insecure" New York Times, April 13, 2015.
"Costs, Benefits and Masterpieces in Detroit," Robert H. Frank, New York Times, March 29, 2014.
"For ObamaCare to Work, Everyone Must be In," Robert H. Frank, New York Times, August 3, 2013.
"What Sweden Can Tell Us about ObamaCare," Robert H. Frank, New York Times, June 15, 2013.
"In Talks, G.O.P. May Have to Just Say Yes," Robert H. Frank, New York Times, December 8, 2012.
"When Low Taxes Don't Help the Rich," Robert H. Frank, New York Times, October 27, 2012.
"Luck vs. Skill: Seeking the Secret of Your Success," Robert H. Frank, New York Times, August 4, 2012.
"Income Inequality: Too Big to Ignore," Robert H. Frank, New York Times, October 17, 2010.
Guest to discuss economic recovery policy on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show, Robert H. Frank, August 4, 2011.
Guest to discuss a progressive consumption tax on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Robert H. Frank, October 24, 2011.
"The Darwin Economy: Liberty, Competition, and the Common Good," Robert H. Frank, Interview with Diane Rehm, NPR, October 27, 2011.
"Bridge Our Divide by Building Bridges," Robert H. Frank (with P.J. O’Rourke), USA Today, November 9, 2011.
Guest to discuss his book, The Darwin Economy on PBS’s NewsHour, Robert H. Frank, November 18, 2011.
"The Preschool Race is No Joke," Robert H. Frank, New York Times, April 22, 2012.