Rebecca M. Blank is the Deputy Secretary of Commerce, a role she was nominated for in October 2011. From August 2011 through October 2011, between the end of Secretary Gary Locke’s tenure and the beginning of Secretary John Bryson’s term, Blank served as Acting Secretary of Commerce. During that time, she worked to promote the Obama Administration’s efforts to improve the economy. Now as Acting Deputy Secretary, she is focused on matters of management and policy for the department’s 12 bureaus, functioning as Commerce’s chief operating officer. Blank was appointed Acting Deputy Secretary of Commerce in November 2010.
Blank has served the Commerce Secretary since June 2009 as his principal economic adviser in her role as Under Secretary for Economic Affairs and head of the Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA). ESA oversees the two premier statistical agencies in the United States, the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. She also serves as his appointed Board Representative to the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation.
Since being sworn in at ESA, Blank has played an important role overseeing a decennial Census operation that has completed its work on time and under budget – netting $1.6 billion in 2010 savings. Within ESA, she has supervised a staff of economists and policy analysts who produce a wide variety of reports and forecasts that help develop and assess domestic and international policy.
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. In May, Blank was inducted as an Eleanor Roosevelt Fellow by the American Academy of Political and Social Science in recognition of her distinguished scholarship in the social sciences.
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.