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Jelena Zarkovic Rakic

Nationality: Serbian

Lives in: Belgrade, Serbia


Jelena Zarkovic Rakic is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Economics, University of Belgrade, Serbia and Director of the Foundation for the Advancement in Economics, one of the leading think tanks for economic and social policy research in Serbia and in the region. As a visiting student Jelena was at the George Mason University (USA) and European University Institute (Italy).  She received her PhD in Economics from the University of Belgrade.

Jelena’s main research interests are the labour markets, poverty and income inequality effects of tax and benefit policies. She has been involved as a project coordinator and/or researcher in a number of projects financed by the European Union, World Bank, Department for International Development and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. For several years she has held lectures for civil servants of the Government of Serbia on the preparation of public policy proposals and evaluation of public policies. She took active an role in a number of initiatives regarding a more active cooperation between policy makers and social science researchers. In this she participated in numerous conferences, seminars and workshops in Serbia and abroad and published articles in journals like Post-Communist Economies, International Journal of Micro-simulation and Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations.


Personal statement

I firmly believe that inequality of opportunities, most importantly in terms of the unequal access to education and health services, is bad for economic prosperity of the country. Those with the inability to climb the social ladder are not about to utilise their full potential. Inequality is also bad for democracy and the stability of a nation, as the latest events of Brexit and the Trump election have shown.

My home country, Serbia, has the highest income inequality levels in Europe. However, research on the possible causes of such a situation is still very limited.  Our project intends to investigate this by comparing Serbia, Bosnia and Hercegovina, which has a similarly high Gini coefficient as Serbia, Slovenia, which has one of the lowest inequality levels in the European space, and Croatia, which is at the average EU level of inequality. In the Yugoslav past, these countries shared generous and inclusive welfare state. After the breakup, these four countries took different welfare state trajectories alongside their experience of  war and conflict so, by investigating how this might have impacted today’s varying levels of income inequality, our project will provide a deeper insight into the “good” and the “bad” forces that affect inequality levels.

For the Atlantic Fellows community this project might offer interesting new observations into the powers and limitations of the welfare state that is being re-examined in many countries with the austerity rhetoric and discontent regarding its ability to protect from the perils of globalisation and technological progress.