The share of women and minority economists working for the Fed has barely grown in five years — and elite economists say that’s a big problem

bernanke yellenAP Images

  • The Federal Reserve System has employed the same share of women economists since 2013, a new study by the Brookings Institution shows. 
  • In the same time frame, the share of minority economists has ticked up slightly. Both measures fall short of diversity growth in economists that work for the government outside of the Fed. 
  • The lack of diversity in the profession is not only damaging to those excluded, but damages the field as well, industry leaders Ben Bernanke, Janet Yellen, and Olivier Blanchard said. 
  • Read more on Business Insider.

The Federal Reserve is struggling to build diversity in its economist ranks. 

In 2018, women economists made up 24% of those employed by the Fed System. That number has been roughly the same since 2013, according to a new study from the Brookings Institution.

As the chart below shows, the share of minorities has increased only slightly, to 25% in 2018 from 22% five years prior.

brookingsBrookings Institution

That stands in stark contrast to other areas of the federal government. The report shows that the share of women and minorities employed by non-Fed entities has grown each year since 2010. The share of women grew to 33% in 2018 from 27% in 2010, and the share of minorities went to 24% from 18% over the same timeframe. 

brookingsBrookings Institution

The data illuminates an issue within economics that’s gaining increasing attention. In March 2019, Olivier Blanchard, Ben Bernanke, and Janet Yellen — past, present, and future presidents of the American Economic Association — wrote a letter on the subject to its membership. 

Excluding or marginalizing people based on gender, race, or other personal characteristics is not only “deeply unfair,” but it damages the field, the letter argued, “by limiting the diversity of perspectives and dissuading talented people from becoming economists.” 

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The letter also touched on the stark contrast between economics and other professions. 

“It is striking that, in an era when women and members of underrepresented minority groups have entered STEM fields at increasing rates, the low rates of participation and advancement of women and minorities in economics have changed little in recent decades,” it said. 

There are a number of changes in place to boost diversity in economists, according to the report. One is making sure that more diverse candidates study economics at the undergraduate level. The AEA also adopted a new professional code of conduct in April 2018 which included a more detailed policy on harassment and discrimination. 

The group also ended the practice of holding job interviews in standard hotel bedrooms, something that was prevalent in the industry until the change in September. 

source.



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