Fed falls short on economist diversity, Brookings report shows

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When it comes to economists, the Federal Reserve is having little success achieving greater diversity.

Women accounted for 24% of economists with doctorate degrees within the U.S. central bank system in 2018, the same share as four years earlier, according to a report released Monday by the Brookings Institution in Washington. The share for minorities was 25%, a marginal improvement from the 23% in 2014 and in line with other U.S. government agencies.

By comparison, women made up 33% of Ph.D. economists in federal agencies outside the central bank last year, while the share for minorities was 24% — both up 3 percentage points from 2014.

“There’s much that can and should be done to improve the representation and success of women and minorities within the federal government,” former Fed Chair Janet Yellen said in a speech at Brookings. “Beyond fairness, the lack of diversity harms the field because it wastes talent. It also skews the field viewpoint and diminishes its breadth.”

The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston reported the highest share of female Ph.D. economists among the 12 Fed district banks at 43%, while the St. Louis Fed employs the largest share of minority economists with doctorates, also at 43%.

The broader economics profession in the U.S. has publicly grappled with sexism and under-representation of women and minorities in recent years. Last year, the American Economic Association adopted a code of professional conduct calling for economists to support “participation and advancement in the economics profession by individuals from all backgrounds.” Recently the group said it’s “strongly discouraging conducting interviews” for job placements in regular hotel bedrooms, following complaints about the practice.

Bloomberg News