As an undergraduate columnist for The Daily Princetonian, Catherine Rampell ’07 shared her opinions on everything from Princeton admitting the children of alumni to the right to privacy. A decade later, at the age of 29, she became one of the youngest opinion writers ever to be given a column in The Washington Post.
For seven years now she has opined twice a week on economics, public policy, immigration, health care, and other issues. She credits Princeton professor Alan Krueger, an esteemed labor economist who died in 2019, with helping to launch her journalism career.
As an anthropology major, Rampell took several economics courses and served as a research assistant for Krueger. About a year after Rampell graduated, he recommended her to The New York Times, which was seeking an editor to launch a new economics blog. The blog started the week that Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, the height of the 2008 financial crisis. After six years, the Post — where she had worked as an intern for about a year before joining the Times — offered her a column.
Rampell set out to shine a light on policy and regulatory changes that sometimes don’t get much attention but have a profound impact on people’s lives. “Really consequential policy changes can seem dry and difficult to understand, and they are crowded out by more digestible, telegenic news,” she says. “They may seem boring, but my job is to make them interesting and impress upon people why they matter.”
In 2018, she wrote about the Trump administration’s implementation of new work requirements to retain eligibility for Medicaid. To demonstrate how the policy was stripping people of health coverage, she traveled to Arkansas — the first state to implement the new rules — and interviewed a worker at a chicken plant who lost his coverage because he was unclear about how to report his work hours and didn’t own a computer or smartphone, the only means to record one’s job data.
She has penned several columns that track the ways the Trump administration has curbed immigration behind the scenes. Last July, she wrote about how the administration — without informing Congress — scaled back printing green cards by ending a contract with a printing company. As a result, 50,000 green cards and 75,000 other documents that had been promised to immigrants had not been printed. Rampell learned about the situation from one of the dozens of immigration attorneys she keeps in touch with to monitor the administration’s actions. After two class action lawsuits were filed, the government agreed to speed up printing.
Rampell also is an economic and political commentator for CNN, a special correspondent for the PBS NewsHour, and a contributor to Marketplace, a news program broadcast on public radio. For her on-air appearances, Rampell draws not just on her journalism chops but also on her experience at Princeton as a writer and performer with the Triangle Club.
“Having acting experience helps,” she says. “You have to come armed with facts, but also know how to present yourself as authoritative.”