Mary M. (Polly) Cleveland is an economist focusing on wealth distribution and a long-time activist for social justice. Her blog, "Econamici," also appears on the Dollars & Sense website. She serves on the Dollars&Sense board.
From fall 2007, through fall 2016 she was Adjunct Professor of Environmental Economics at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), where she taught a course on "Poverty, Inequality and the Environment." She is now Adjunct Senior Research Scholar at SIPA.
Since 1997, she has been a member of Boston-based United for a Fair Economy (UFE), and UFE's Responsible Wealth Project. She served on the board of UFE from 2002 to 2006. In 2004, she joined in activities of Billionaires for Bush.
From 1994-2001, she was the Director of Research at The Partnership for Responsible Drug Information a non-profit that encouraged open and well-informed discussion of drug policy.
From 1969-1971, she worked for Ralph Nader investigating the power of large landholders in California. Through this she encountered the ideas of the great nineteenth-century American economist and reformer, Henry George. George attributed the persistence of poverty in the midst of economic growth to concentrated ownership of land and other natural resources. He advocated taxing the "rent" of land as a remedy.
From 1994-2004 she served on the Board of the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation, which publishes Progress and Poverty and other work by Henry George, as well as work influenced by George. She was President 2003-2004.
Dr. Cleveland received a Ph.D. in Agricultural and Resource Economics from the University of California, Berkeley in 1984. Her dissertation, entitled Consequences and Causes of Unequal Distribution of Wealth, addressed George's basic questions using modern mathematical modelling, showing how unequal distribution of wealth lowers an economy's wages, productivity, and growth.
She has worked as the controller of a small family pharmaceutical company (1981-85), taught accounting and computer systems at Rutgers University (1985-88), and renovated and managed two small Manhattan apartment buildings (1986-2009).
She received a BA in physics from Radcliffe in 1966, and studied ancient Near Eastern languages at both Harvard University and then UC Berkeley, 1966-72.