Steven Pressman (economist)

Last updated
Steven Pressman
Born (1952-02-23) February 23, 1952 (age 69)
Brooklyn, New York
Field Post-Keynesian economics; poverty and the middle class
School or
Post Keynesian
Influences John Maynard Keynes, John Kenneth Galbraith
ContributionsThe measurement and causes of poverty and the size of the middle class; application of Post Keynesian principles to microeconomic issues

Steven Pressman (born February 23, 1952 in Brooklyn, New York) is an American economist. He is a former Professor of Economics and Finance at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, New Jersey. He has taught at the University of New Hampshire and Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. [1]


He has served as co-editor of the Review of Political Economy since 1995, as Associate Editor and Book Review Editor of the Eastern Economic Journal since 1989, and a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the journal Basic Income Studies since 2005. [1]

He has been on the Board of Directors of the Eastern Economic Association from 1994 to the present, and since 1996 he has served as Treasurer of the group. In addition he has been a regular book reviewer for "Dollars and Sense" since 2010. [1]


Pressman is the elder son of Jeffrey and Phyllis Pressman. Pressman and his brother Alan, a bankruptcy attorney on Long Island, attended public school in Queens (New York) and graduated from Francis Lewis High School. Pressman's sister-in-law, Melissa Palmer, is a Hepatologist and researcher in the field of liver disease. Pressman attended Alfred University in upstate New York, where he received a B.A. in philosophy in 1973. He then attended Syracuse University and received an Master of Arts in philosophy in 1976. He went on to study economics at the New School, working with Robert Heilbroner, Edward J. Nell, David Gordon, and Vivian Walsh. He received his Ph.D. in 1983 for his work on Francois Quesnay's Tableau Économique, the first economic model. [1]


He is known for his contributions to economics, particularly his work on poverty and the middle class, which documents that a thriving middle class and low rates of poverty require substantial redistributive efforts on the part of the government; his work applying the principles of Post Keynesian economics to microeconomic policy issues; his work on tax and redistribution policy and his work on the Tableau Économique. [1]

Poverty, the Middle Class, and Income Distribution

Pressman has published articles (with his colleague at Monmouth University, Robert Scott) arguing that poverty and inequality are greater than measured by government statistics because these measures exclude interest payments on consumer debt and these interest payments cannot be used to support current living standards. This work has estimated that there are more than 4 million debt poor in the United States. They have also estimated that the problem of inequality is worse than estimated by standard measures such as the Gini coefficient. They are currently seeking to identify the debt poor and to devise policies to aid the debt poor, who do not qualify for many government assistance programs that mainly go to households officially considered as poor. [1]

Pressman has published several papers using the Luxembourg Income Study to examine poverty, the middle class and government redistribution throughout the world. These papers argue that one main reason poverty rates are so high in the United States is that government tax and government spending policies do little to help those with low earned incomes. In addition, the United States middle class is very small compared to other developed countries mainly because government tax and government spending policies fail to help middle class families. [1]

Additionally, Pressman has published articles on income guarantees and edited a book on the notion of Basic Income Guarantees as a solution to poverty. This work argues that a guaranteed income would not have any major negative economic effects, such as creating great work disincentives, as long as the guarantees are kept to a minimal level. Moreover, this minimal level is greater than the current redistributive efforts in the United States, and something close to what other developed countries provide to their citizens. [1]

Pressman has published articles on refundable tax credits for children as a solution to child poverty in the United States and as a way to support the middle class in the United States. This work argues that these tax credits could be financed by eliminating tax exemptions for children. [1]

He has also published articles on women and poverty. This work argues that the feminization of poverty is due to more female-headed households in the United States and the lack of appropriate tax and spending programs to help female-headed households. Compared to other developed nations throughout the world who do much to help female-headed families, the poverty rate for U.S. female-headed families is much greater. [1]

Government Tax and Spending Policy

As noted above, Pressman has published work advocating that government tax and spending policy is a main determinant of poverty and the size of the middle class in developed countries. He has then gone on to argue for more progressive fiscal policies to support poor and middle class households in the United States. He has also argued that these redistributive programs would not have many negative effects. [1]

He has analyzed the U.S. Current Population Survey, and articulated a policy to eliminate tax deductions for children and convert them into a refundable tax credit. This would essentially give the United States a system of child or family allowances, similar to other developed nations throughout the world. Such a policy change would help low and moderate-income households at no additional cost. It would also greatly reduce child poverty in the U.S. and increase the size of the U.S. middle class. [1]

Pressman has published articles articulating how state governments should deal with the dilemmas of taxing e-commerce, arguing that states need to move away from relying on regressive sales taxes and use more progressive forms of taxation. [1]

Finally, Pressman has shown that there is little empirical evidence that government deficits crowd out consumption, business investment, or net exports. There is, however, good empirical evidence that, when used appropriately, fiscal policy is able to mitigate business cycles. [1]

Physiocracy and the History of Economic Thought

Pressman's work has sought to explain the Physiocratic model of the macro-economy (see Physiocracy), and to argue that the Tableau Économique is a consistent economic model. He has shown how this model can be used to deal with the contemporary economic problems such as the productivity slowdown and appropriate tax policy. Finally, he has shown how this model is consistent with the models of contemporary schools of thought such as Post-Keynesian economics. [1]

His book, 50 Major Economists, 2nd ed. (Routledge, 2006) brings the ideas of key economists from the past to a more general audience.

Other Contributions

Pressman has written on financial frauds and their causes, including articles on specific frauds such as Charles Ponzi, Martin Frankel, and Health South. He has argued that naive optimism, a human character trait, is one reason that financial frauds are so prevalent. Another reason is herd behavior. Yet another reason is the lack of adequate government controls and insufficient checks and balances on firms and on individuals working for firms. Finally, human laziness comes into play – the failure of people to do the simple homework necessary to identify likely fraudulent activity. [1]

Pressman has also written on economic methodology, arguing that the voting paradox cannot be resolved by claiming that voting is like clapping or applauding for a candidate. Strong empirical evidence that people engage in strategic voting, and important differences between voting and applause, make this resolution of the voting paradox inadequate.

Finally, Pressman has argued that Robert Nozick's position on the justice of government redistribution programs, which is put into concrete terms with his famous Wilt Chamberlain example, is badly flawed for four reasons – it ignores actual history, yet purports to be a historical theory of justice, it ignores empirical evidence on justice, it ignores the social nature of production and it ignores the future. [1]


Books written

Books edited

Selected peer reviewed articles

Poverty, the middle class, and income distribution

Post-Keynesian economics

Physiocracy and the history of economic thought

Other works

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 "Curriculum Vitae" (PDF). Monmouth University. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 30 January 2011.