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Alicia Sasser Modestino

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December 1, 2015

Alicia Sasser Modestino, an associate professor with appointments in the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and the Department of Economics, has been invited to serve the state in multiple capacities over the past year.

Last spring Governor Baker invited Professor Modestino to serve on the Massachusetts State Task Force on Economics Opportunity for Persons Facing Chronically High Rates of Unemployment. Over the past eight months, she has worked closely with Secretary of Labor Ron Walker and other members of the task force to assess the state’s workforce development system and compile a set of findings, recommendations, and targets aimed at improving access and services for individuals facing multiple barriers and challenges that hinder their ability to find a job and sustain employment.

The task force presented its strategic plan to Governor Baker and Cabinet Secretariats last month with recommendations for executive actions and legislation that will foster improvements and innovation within the system to better serve target populations such as minorities, veterans, and the disabled that experience persistent difficulties in the labor market.

Professor Modestino’s work on the task force is directly related to her research on changing employer skill requirements over the business cycle.  Professor Modestino, who is also the associate director of Northeastern’s Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy, is the co-principal investigator on two projects funded by the Russell Sage Foundation. The first project, “Upskilling: Do Employers Demand Greater Skill When Workers Are Plentiful,”  uses Big Data on 68 million online job postings and demonstrates that employers opportunistically increased their skill requirements for education and experience during the Great Recession in response to the greater availability of workers. Employer skill requirements for these and other types of skills (e.g. specialized and computer skills) have since fallen during the recovery period as the labor market has improved, although the degree of reversion is not complete. The second project is a qualitative study of employers to determine their motivation for shifting skill requirements and other changes in hiring practices that occurred over the most recent business cycle.

“My goal is to help MHP continue to innovate with new products and programs so that the Commonwealth can build the housing it needs to support strong economic and job growth across the income spectrum.”

Despite the task force’s work being done, Professor Modestino still has the opportunity to impact state policy, but this time on the housing front.

Governor Baker again tapped Professor Modestino for her expertise when he appointed her to the board of directors of the Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP) last month. The MHP is a public nonprofit organization that seeks ways of increasing the supply of affordable housing in Massachusetts. On the board, she will provide insight on ways the MHP’s policies and programs can help address the affordable housing problem.

“I’m honored to join the board and look forward to contributing to MHP’s track record of challenging the usual ways of building affordable housing,” she said. “My goal is to help MHP continue to innovate with new products and programs so that the Commonwealth can build the housing it needs to support strong economic and job growth across the income spectrum.”

Professor Modestino is an expert in housing policy and migration trends. As a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston she co-authored a landmark study on housing affordability in the New England region. She also co-authored the Dukakis Center’s “The Greater Boston Housing Report Card 2014-2015” for the Boston Foundation and has published an academic paper on recent housing trends in Regional Science and Urban Economics entitled “Are American Homeowners Locked into Their Houses? The Impact of Housing Marketing Conditions on State-to-State Migration.”


Published On: December 1, 2015