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On May 18, 2017, in the historic Kennedy Caucus Room on Capitol Hill, Alan Krueger of Princeton University gave the fifth annual Daniel Patrick Moynihan Lecture on Social Science and Public Policy. Krueger is the tenth winner of the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize, awarded by the American Academy of Political and Social Science each year to leaders who contribute to social progress by applying social scientific evidence to critical national concerns and to public policymaking.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) introduces Alan Krueger

In his introduction of Krueger, Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) noted the significance of Krueger’s work and career, which has centered on making the twenty-first-century economy work for more Americans. “If we don’t figure out a way to meet the needs of today’s workforce where it is today, not where the workforce was decades ago,” Warner said, “we will face long-term economic issues.” Warner added that Krueger’s evidence-based policy solutions often transcend partisanship: “In academic and public policy settings, Krueger has always been on the side of using the data to get policy right.”

The policy and legal structures in place today to support the workforce are outdated, Krueger argued in his talk. He addressed the U.S. economy’s independent workforce—the part-time or “gig” economy, demonstrating that “the steady increase in the number of self-employed workers over the last few decades raises concerns about where and how these workers obtain health insurance and other benefits.”

Krueger and AAPSS President Ken Prewitt taking audience questions

Krueger presented new data from the Princeton Survey Research Center, showing that health insurance is by far the most desirable benefit in the independent workforce, with life insurance and retirement savings a distant second and third. Krueger went on to outline the pros and cons of various public policies that might be supportive of such workers, including a proposed “Shared Security Account” that would be portable and more flexible than current available benefits.

“We face a real challenge,” Krueger said. “Self-employment is likely to grow, and this is independent of the online economy. The online economy will just fuel this more in the future. We have a substantial group of people who are left to their own devices when it comes to obtaining a safety net. We can be a lot more efficient in helping these workers secure benefits.”

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