Russell Williams

Professor of Economics
Urban Studies Program Coordinator


Phone: 508-286-3664

Fax: 508-286-3640


Ph.D., University of Massachusetts, Amherst
B.A., Amherst College


Dr. Russell E. Williams is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Economics.  Raised in South Carolina and Georgia, Williams received his undergraduate degree from Amherst College, where he was a National Achievement Scholar, and his Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where he was a Ford Foundation PreDoctoral Fellow. He has a rich history of working at economic policy think-tanks and in education. At Wheaton, he has taught Introductory Macroeconomics, Urban Economics, Labor Economics, the Economics of Race and Racism, the Economics of Education, a First-Year Seminar titled Responsibility and Economic Policy, and Enterprising Nonprofits.  In addition, he holds expertise in the History of Economic Thought, and in the Economics of Renewable Energy. Known best for his work in urban economics, Prof. Williams is a co-author (with Barry Bluestone and Mary Huff Stevenson) of The Urban Experience: Economics, Society and Public Policy (Oxford University Press, 2008).

In 2014, Prof. Williams was named the Robert C. and Mary Priedeman Brown Professor of Urban Planning and Environment, becoming the first recipient of the endowed chair established by Wheaton alumna Mary Priedeman Brown, ’43.

Main Interests

Prof. Williams’ main emphasis is the interaction of economics and public policy. His teaching prepares students for real-world issues in which there is a need for both economic insight and ability to think critically about socioeconomic contexts and impacts. His professional writing is designed to advance theory related to his courses; and to expand the awareness of academicians and public policy professionals about pertinent theory, connections between public policy choices and impacts, and possible policy alternatives.

Other Interests

In his spare time, Williams enjoys music and watching sports. He is a lifelong pianist, whose childhood training included studies at South Carolina State University and Peabody Institute of Music (Baltimore). As an adult he served for two years as accompanist for New England Conservatory’ s Community Services Program voice class.



The Urban Experience: Economics, Society and Public Policy, an urban economics and public policy textbook, co-authored by Prof. Williams (with Barry Bluestone and Mary Huff Stevenson), was published in 2008 by Oxford University Press.

A chapter written by Prof. Williams, entitled “Moving Beyond Vagueness: Social Capital, Social Networks, and Economic Outcomes”, is in Race, Neighborhoods, and the Misuse of Social Capital, published in 2007 by Palgrave Macmillan Publishers

Among Prof. Williams’ past research publications are:

Williams, Russell and Percy Williams, 2011.  “The Economic Impact Of Renewable Energy Projects On Rural Areas”, A Report by Driven Engineering, Inc. for the US Department of Agriculture, Office of Rural Development, Washington, DC and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Paris, France.

Williams, Russell, “Economic Anchors and Vendor Contracting: New Barriers (and Potential New Opportunities) for Small Minority Business in the New Economy”, a study prepared at the Center for Urban and Regional Policy, Northeastern University, Boston MA.

Jennings, James, Regina Rodriguez-Mitchell, Russell Williams and Juan Evereteze, “Economic Development and Inner Cities in Massachusetts: Recommendations for Expanding the Capacity of Small Businesses and Microenterprises”, prepared at the William Monroe Trotter Institute for the Executive Office of Economic Affairs of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Watanabe, Paul with James Jennings, Edwin Melendez, Michael Liu, Gemima Remy, Christina Gomez and Russell Williams, “Changing Demographics, Challenges, and New Opportunities for Boston”, prepared by the Institute for Asian-American Studies, the Mauricio Gaston Institute, and the William Monroe Trotter Institute. This special study was commissioned by the Boston Foundation as part of the Ford Foundation’s Changing Communities, Diverse Needs Initiative.

Sample, Emily, Joseph Frees, Russell Williams, et. al., “Benefit-Cost Analysis of the Work Equity Project”, prepared at Abt Associates, Incorporated, Cambridge, Massachusetts for the United States Department of Labor.

Prager, Audrey, Russell Williams, Peter Finn, Judith Goldberg, Marcia Cohen and Colette Wallace, “Education to Work Councils: Four Case Studies”, prepared at Abt Associates, Incorporated, Cambridge, Massachusetts, for the United States Department of Education, National Institute of Education.



Teaching Interests

Prof. Williams teaches Urban Economics, Macroeconomics, Labor Economics, the Economics of Race and Racism, Enterprising NonProfits: An Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship,  and the Economics of Education —all courses that deal with aspects of economics and public policy. His courses examine the interaction of economic dynamics with institutional and social factors, and the construction of economic theories pertaining to various issues.

In addition to counting toward the Economics Major, two of Prof. Williams’ courses can be taken as requirements for interdisciplinary majors/minors—-Urban Economics is one of the core courses for the Urban Studies minor, while the Economics of Race and Racism is one of the courses counting toward a major or a minor in African, African American, Diaspora Studies.

Brief Description of Urban Economics (Econ 252)
Urban Economics uses economic concepts and dynamics to increase our understanding of the activity and issues that arise in metropolitan areas (cities and their suburbs). In this course you will learn about forces that affect the formation, growth, and well-being of cities and suburbs; and you will gain much greater insight into issues and problems facing urban areas. While doing this, you will also expand your understanding of economic theory—you will learn how the theoretical concepts and models you have learned in other economics classes can be applied to cities, and you will learn new concepts and models particularly useful for analyzing urban issues and controversies.


Research Interests

Williams’ primary areas of research include urban and regional economic development, labor market access and the impact of education/training, and the economics of renewable energy.   His research experience has included positions with the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy (Northeastern University), William Monroe Trotter Institute (University of Massachusetts-Boston), Abt Associates, the Regional Institute for Employment Policy (Boston University), the U.S. Department of Labor, and services as an expert witness in legal proceedings. During his Spring 2011 sabbatical, Prof. Williams was lead economist in a study of the economic impact of rural renewable energy projects (in Maine, Vermont, Tennessee, North Dakota, Iowa, Washington state, and Oregon), under contract from the U.S. Department of Agriculture as the US component of a multinational research project initiated by the Paris, France-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).  His writings have been directed to a wide variety of audiences, from academicians to policy-makers to the general public.





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