Who Is Lael Brainard?

Lael Brainard is the vice chair of the Federal Reserve Board

Lael Brainard is the vice chair of the Federal Reserve. She has been a member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (FRB) since June 2014, chosen by then-President Barack Obama to fill an unexpired term that ends on Jan. 31, 2026. She had been mentioned as a possible pick by President Biden to succeed Jerome Powell as Fed chair, with particular backing from the left wing of the Democratic Party.

However, on Nov. 22, 2021, the White House announced that the president would renominate Powell for another four-year term as Fed chair, with Brainard being nominated to fill the open seat of vice chair. The Senate voted to confirm Brainard as the Fed vice chair on April 26, 2022.

Key Takeaways

  • Lael Brainard serves as the Fed vice chair, having been confirmed by the U.S. Senate on April 26, 2022.
  • She had been mentioned as a leading candidate to replace Jerome Powell as Fed chair.
  • Brainard has held a variety of federal posts under Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
  • Prior to that, she was a consultant at McKinsey & Co. and an economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Sloan School of Management.

Early Life and Education

The child of an American diplomat, Brainard grew up in East Germany and Poland during the Cold War. She received a B.A. with university honors from Wesleyan University in 1983. She received an M.S. and a Ph.D. in economics in 1989 from Harvard University. She was awarded a National Science Foundation Fellowship and a White House Fellowship.

Notable Accomplishments

Prior to joining the FRB, Brainard was undersecretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury from 2010 to 2013 and counselor to the secretary of the Treasury in 2009. During this time, she also was the U.S. representative to the Group of 20 (G-20) Finance Deputies and the Group of Seven (G-7) Deputies, and she was a member of the Financial Stability Board. She received the Alexander Hamilton Award for her service.

G-7 vs. G-8

The Group of Seven (G-7) became the Group of Eight (G-8) in 1998, when Russia joined the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Japan, Italy, and Canada as a member of this association of leading developed nations. However, Russia was suspended in 2014 after annexing the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine, making the association effectively the G-7 once again.

From 2001 to 2008, Brainard was vice president and the founding director of the Global Economy and Development Program and held the Bernard L. Schwartz Chair at the Brookings Institution, where she built a new research program to address global economic challenges. The Brookings Institution, founded in 1916, is a nonprofit public policy research organization, or think tank, based in Washington, D.C.

The Brookings Institution currently has more than 300 scholars affiliated with it, and its research topics include, among others, foreign policy, economics, development, governance, and metropolitan policy.

Brainard was the deputy national economic adviser and deputy assistant to then-President Bill Clinton. She also was President Clinton's personal representative to the G-8 and the G-7.

From 1990 to 1996, Brainard was assistant and associate professor of applied economics at the Sloan School of Management of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She has published numerous articles on a variety of economic topics and is the editor or co-editor of several books.

Prior to her teaching position at MIT Sloan, Brainard worked in management consulting at McKinsey & Co.

In 2019, Brainard was one of five recipients of the Centennial Medal awarded by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) at Harvard University. The Centennial Medal is the highest honor bestowed by Harvard's GSAS, first awarded in 1989 to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of GSAS.

The Bottom Line

Now that Brainard has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the Fed's vice chair, it remains to be seen how much additional influence on policy she may have. Brainard is seen as being more dovish than Powell, less concerned about inflation, and less likely to support an increase in interest rates. She also is expected to be tougher on bank regulation and likely to make climate change a major item on the Fed's agenda.

How is the vice chair of the Federal Reserve Board selected?

The President of the United States nominates a vice chair from among the members of the Federal Reserve Board. The nomination is subject to confirmation by the Senate, and the vice chair serves for a term of four years.

What are the responsibilities of the Federal Reserve chair?

The chair of the Federal Reserve Board serves as the public face of the Federal Reserve Bank. The chair is the active executive officer of the Federal Reserve Board. The chair's main responsibility is to carry out the mandate of the Fed, which is to promote the goals of maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates.

What does it mean to describe an economic policymaker as dovish?

A dove is an economic policy advisor who promotes monetary policies that usually involve low interest rates. Doves tend to support low interest rates and expansionary monetary policy because they value indicators like low unemployment over keeping inflation low. If an economist suggests that inflation has few negative effects or calls for quantitative easing, then they are called a dove or labeled as dovish.

Article Sources
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  1. The White House. “President Biden Nominates Jerome Powell to Serve as Chair of the Federal Reserve, Dr. Lael Brainard to Serve as Vice Chair.”

  2. CNBC. "Senate Confirms Lael Brainard as Fed Vice Chair."

  3. Brookings Institution. “About Us.”

  4. Harvard University, The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. “Fearless Advocates, Trusted Leaders: 2019 Centennial Medals.”

  5. Federalreserve.gov. "Board Members."

  6. Federalreserve.gov. "The Role of the Federal Reserve."

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