Rebecca M. Blank (born September 19, 1955) is President of Northwestern University, a role she has filled since 2022.
She was previously the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 2013-2022. Prior to that she was in the U.S. Department of Commerce, serving for more than a year as the Acting U.S. Secretary of Commerce. She was appointed as Deputy Secretary from 2011-13, functioning as the chief operating officer for the department and overseeing issues of management, policy and strategic planning for the department’s 12 bureaus.
She served as the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs from 2009-11 and head of the Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA). In this role, she was the primary economic advisor to the Department of Commerce and also had management oversight over two premier statistical agencies in the United States, the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. As Under Secretary, she also served as the appointed Board Representative to the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation.
Prior to arriving at Commerce, Blank was the Robert S. Kerr Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan (UM), where she implemented a major expansion of its faculty and programs. She also served as co-director of UM’s National Poverty Center. From 1997-1999, Blank was one of three members of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers, participating in White House decision-making on a host of economic, social and regulatory policy issues.
Prior to her work with the Clinton administration, she was a Professor of Economics at Northwestern University and Director of the Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research. The author of several books, Blank has researched extensively the interactions of the macro economy, government social policy programs, and the behavior and well-being of low-income families.
Blank is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Fellow of the Society of Labor Economists, and a Lifetime Associate at the National Academies of Science. She has served in a wide variety of advisory and professional roles, including service on the Boards of Directors of MDRC, the Economic Policy Institute, and the Urban Institute. She was a long-time faculty affiliate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, vice president of the American Economic Association, and president of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management. She was named a Distinguished Fellow of the American Economics Association in 2022, and has received both the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize as well as being named an Eleanor Roosevelt Fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Science in recognition of her distinguished scholarship in the social sciences. She holds honorary doctorates from the University of Antwerp and from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County.
A native of Missouri, Blank is a summa cum laude graduate in economics from the University of Minnesota and holds a Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
She has been a Research Fellow with IZA since 2007.