MAX ZAMBRANO – STAFF WRITER
When Nancy Marshall-Genzer’s grandmother was widowed in her early 40s, she needed a way to support her two kids. With no formal training, she studied hard, and eventually became the first woman to be a stockbroker in Davenport, Iowa.
She passed her knowledge down to her daughter, who then passed it to her daughter, Marshall-Genzer. She said she’s been fascinated by economics all her life because of these women. Earning her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ohio University, Marshall-Genzer has been the senior reporter for American Public Media’s “Marketplace” since 2006. She’s now produced over 1,500 stories related to the economy, averaging 100 each year.
At 10:30 a.m. Monday, Aug. 9 in the Amphitheater, she will open Week Seven’s Chautauqua Lecture Series themed “The State of the Economy: Where Do We Go From Here?”
Her focus has shifted slightly over the years, but she’s always loved economic reporting. One of the areas she covers more frequently is the Federal Reserve.
“I just love the Fed,” she said. “I love data. I’m a nerd.”
One thing she likes about the Federal Reserve is the suspense that comes with their decisions.
“Will it keep pouring liquidity into the economy and keep its foot on the gas pedal to stimulate the economy, or is it worried about overheating the economy and spurring inflation?” she said. “It’s really fun to watch that and try to figure out what they’re going to do.”
This isn’t her only focus, though. Marshall-Genzer has covered labor laws, the minimum wage, housing markets, financial policies and COVID-19’s economic impact. One of her goals is explaining how decisions on Wall Street and in Washington D.C. impact the everyday American. Sometimes, that includes being right alongside the everyday American. One story in particular stands out in her career.
“I interviewed a woman in Alabama, an elderly Black woman who was not doing great financially, and she just wanted $500 to buy a spot in a cemetery for her grave,” Marshall-Genzer said. “She wanted it to be near her family.”
They spent that day together, including a trip to the cemetery, where the woman needed to settle a dispute, Marshall-Genzer said. The dispute was ultimately settled, she said, and they went out to look at the graves. There, Marshall-Genzer took a photo of the woman looking down at her mother’s grave. When the story went public, people began a crowdfunding campaign, Marshall-Genzer said. It was successful.
“I was just amazed,” she said. “Stories like that that really have an impact are my favorite stories to do.”
In today’s lecture, she’ll look at the current state of the economy, and for the rest of the year, too. She wants people to realize, though, that she doesn’t have a crystal ball.
“I’m specifically looking at some economic indicators that I watch and that the economists I interview watch,” she said.
One of those is consumer spending, a closely watched indicator, she said. She’ll look at tools economists use to determine and analyze consumer spending, too. She will also look at inflation, and how the Federal Reserve attempts to keep inflation at its target — around 2%, she said.
The Federal Reserve is also responsible for determining unemployment rates, although it does not have a specific goal like inflation, she said. Instead, it has a goal of maximum employment, she said. Marshall-Genzer will also analyze the sum of all goods and services produced in the United States, known as the gross domestic product, or GDP.
“My favorite economic indicator is freight rail and trains,” she said. “You can tell a whole lot from shipments of various goods across the country. Some shipments are going down, some are going up, and it’s a nice way to take a pulse check on the economy to see what’s happening with freight rail.”
Marshall-Genzer hopes people leave the Amp today with a better sense of the economy and what to look for themselves. Going forward, she thinks attendees might pay closer attention to indicators, such as unemployment or consumer confidence.
“I’d love for them to be able to hear about this news about various indicators, and then draw their own conclusions about where the economy is going,” she said.