Financial innovation to reduce inequality and promote equitable growth

Project Summary:

If policymakers want to help low- and medium-income families pay down their debt, we need to better understand how families manage their debt and debt payments. This research will look at the different strategies families take to handle debts, including the tactic of “debt juggling,” where households pay just enough to avoid going into collection but make no progress in paying off the debts. The research will subsequently look at how policies informed by behavioral economics could help improve families’ debt management strategies.


Michael S. Barr is a member of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth's Research Advisory Board. He is also the Roy F. and Jean Humphrey Proffitt Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School, a professor of public policy at the University of Michigan's Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and the Brookings Institution. Barr served from 2009 to 2010 as the U.S. Department of the Treasury's assistant secretary for financial institutions, and was a key architect of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Barr conducts large-scale empirical research regarding financial services and researches and writes about a wide range of issues in financial regulation. Recent books include “No Slack: The Financial Lives of Low-Income Americans” (Brookings Press, 2012), “Insufficient Funds” (Russell Sage, 2009, co-edited with Rebecca Blank), and “Building Inclusive Financial Systems” (Brookings Press, 2007, co-edited with Anjali Kumar and Robert Litan).

Barr previously served as Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin's special assistant, as deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury, as special adviser to President William J. Clinton, as a special adviser and counselor on the policy planning staff at the U.S. Department of State, and as a law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter and the Hon. Pierre N. Leval, then of the Southern District of New York.

He received his J.D. from Yale Law School, his M.Phil. in international relations as a Rhodes Scholar from Magdalen College, Oxford University, and his B.A., summa cum laude, with honors in history, from Yale University.