New data shows few black economists at the Fed

Black researchers made up about 1.5 percent of the Federal Reserve System’s staff of 945 doctoral-level economists at the end of 2021, a number that highlights the central bank’s ongoing struggle to improve racial and ethnic diversity in its rows.

Data released publicly by the Fed Thursday for the first time showed that 72 percent of the system’s Ph.D. economists are white, 17 percent are Asian and 9.4 percent identify as Hispanic or Latino. A small shared report that identifies with two or more races.

The new diversity figures follow reports from The New York Times last year, in which data provided by the Fed showed that just 1.3 percent of economists across its system identified only as black at the end of 2020. The 2021 data is approximately, but not exactly. comparable, because the central bank made methodological improvements in collecting the figures this year.

Economics is a predominantly white and Asian profession — just under 5 percent of U.S. citizens or residents earning doctorates in the field in the 2020 school year were black — but the Fed tends to be even less racially diverse than the profession in your set. The statement underscored that the US central bank is making slow progress in hiring and retaining a more racially diverse staff of experts.

In the system of 12 Federal Reserve banks and the Board of Governors in Washington, 14 Ph.D.-level economists identify only as black. The board employs 429 economists, but no black women and only one black man.

However, there seems to be some progress towards more diversity at the entry level. When it comes to the Fed’s 393 research assistants, who typically have bachelor’s degrees and often aspire to doctorates in economics in the future, the new data showed that 19 people, or about 5 percent of attendees, they were black.

That’s a slight improvement from 3.7 percent a year earlier, and roughly reflects the proportion of economics graduates who identify as black.

The Fed’s core staff was also more diverse by gender: 42 percent of research assistants were women, compared with about 25 percent of its Ph.D. economists.

Lawmakers and think tanks have for years pushed the Federal Reserve to increase diversity within its ranks, arguing that having a set of economists and researchers at the central bank that more closely mirrors the public (the people those ultimately served by the Federal Reserve) would lead to a wider range. of views around the policy table and fuller economic debates.

The Federal Reserve sets the nation’s monetary policy, raising or lowering the cost of borrowing money to slow down or speed up the economy. Your actions help determine how strong the job market is at any given time, help control inflation, and can influence financial stability.

“The risk of underrepresentation, from a substantive standpoint, is that you’re underrepresenting perspectives that are important to policymaking,” said Skanda Amarnath, chief executive of Employ America, which pushes the Fed to focus more on the market. labor.

That could mean that a variety of ideas and experiences are “not fully understood or grasped to the same extent,” he said.

The Fed is about to see greater racial diversity in its highest ranks: Lisa D. Cook and Philip N. Jefferson, both black, were confirmed as Fed governors this week. Susan M. Collins will become the first black woman to lead a regional Fed bank when she becomes president of the Boston Fed this summer, and Raphael Bostic, the first black man to lead a regional bank, is currently president of the Atlanta Fed. .

The Fed’s leadership team has also become more gender diverse in recent years. Assuming all of Biden’s candidates are confirmed, three of the seven central bank governors will be women. Once new presidents take office in Boston and Dallas this summer, five of its 12 regional banking leaders will be women.

Fed officials have spoken publicly in recent years about the goal of having a broader range of views within their own workplaces.

“The Atlanta Fed is committed to modeling economic inclusion, and that starts with our own organization,” Bostic of Atlanta said in a 2020 op-ed, published after George Floyd, a black man, was killed by a gunman. the police in Minneapolis. . “We embrace diversity and inclusion as essential to who we are.”

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