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Economics professor Ran Abramitzky, hosting 39 Stanford faculty who will weigh in on the challenges facing the U.S. as we approach the elections. The entire Stanford community is welcome, including staff, students, faculty, postdocs, alumni, as is the general public. Students who wish to take the course for a (1-unit) credit should attend or watch the recordings of at least 8 of the 9 events.


Every Tuesday 12:30-1:50pm (virtual) during the fall quarter.


Should the U.S. close its borders to immigrants? What are the ramifications of income inequality?

How has COVID-19 changed life as we know it? Why are Americans so politically polarized? How can we address racial injustice? As the 2020 election approaches, faculty members from across Stanford will explore and examine some of the biggest challenges facing society today. Each week will be dedicated to a different topic, ranging from health care and the economy to racial injustice and challenges to democracy.

Faculty with expertise in philosophy, economics, law, political science, psychology, medicine, history, and more will come together for lively conversations about the issues not only shaping this election season but also the nation and world at large. There will also be Q&A following the initial discussion.

Event Details

September 15: Challenges Facing Democracy in the U.S.

Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar — American Constitutional Democracy in a Changing World

Larry Diamond — Depolarizing American Politics

Margaret Levi — A More Equitable Union

Condoleezza Rice — Challenges Facing the U.S.

September 22: The Challenges Posed by COVID-19 —and What Policy Makers Can Do About It

Marshall Burke — Pandemic and Air Pollution 

Matt Gentzkow — Polarization and Public Health

Pamela Karlan — COVID-19, Election 20

Erin Mordecai — Long-Term Intervention Strategies for COVID-19


September 29: How the Pandemic is Changing the Economy

Susan Athey — Incentives and Investment in COVID-19 Vaccines 

Nick Bloom — The Future of Working from Home

Rebecca Diamond — The Benefits to Preventing another Foreclosure Wave - Evidence from the Great Recession

Darrell Duffie — Financial Markets and Economic Policy in a Pandemic

October 6: Inequality and the American Dream

Michael Boskin – Income Inequality and whether we should aim to reduce it 

David Grusky – Inequality and the American Dream

Debra Satz – What (If Anything) is Wrong with Income Inequality?

Florencia Torche – Higher Education and Income Inequality


October 13: Immigration and the American Dream

Ran Abramitzky — Streets of Gold: Immigration and The American Dream Over Two Centuries

Asad L. Asad — Deportation Threat and Daily Life

Ana Raquel Minian — The Return of Immigration Detention

Melanie Morten — Building a Border Wall

October 20: Diversity, polarization, and racial injustice

Host: Debra Satz, Dean of H&S

Racial injustice:

Richard Banks — Race, Inequality and the Law

Richard Ford 

Allyson Hobbs — The Black Lives Matter Movement and the Power of Protest

Diversity and polarization:

James Fishkin — Bridging Political Divide

Hazel Markus — Inclusion in Diverse Societies

October 27: U.S. Health Policy in the COVID Era and Beyond

Kate Bundorf — The Coronavirus Pandemic and the U.S. Health Care System

Lisa Chamberlain — Kids, COVID and Child Health Policy

Mark Duggan — Social Security, Medicare, and Health Policy

Maria Polyakova — Private Provision of Social Insurance

November 3: No event (election day)

November 10: The Election Results and What's Next

Emilee Chapman — Democracy and Voting

Francis Fukuyama — Overcoming Polarization

Anna Grzymala-Busse — Populism Around the World

Michael McFaul — U.S. Foreign Policy in Dealing with the Great Power Competition, China and Russia

November 17: Big Challenges for the Next Decade

Steven Chu — What the World Needs to Become Carbon Neutral

Gretchen Daily — How to Stop Environmental Destruction

Fei-Fei Li — The Future of Human Centered AI

Walter Scheidel — Will the Pandemic Remake Society?