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Fed Board Employs Just One Black Economist, Diversity Data Show

By Catarina Saraiva

The Federal Reserve employs just one Black male economist and no Black female economists at its Board in Washington, according to the central bank’s latest diversity data.

The Marriner S. Eccles Federal Reserve building stands in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. The Trump administration is backing sending direct payments of $1,000 or more to Americans within two weeks as part of an $850 billion plan to blunt some of the economic impact of the widening coronavirus outbreak. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

The data, released on Thursday, show the vast majority of its workforce of Ph.D. economists — whose research helps the institution set policy for the world’s largest economy — is male and White. Representation falls short for Black, Hispanic, American Indian and Native Hawaiian Americans compared with the country’s population.

The Fed has been criticized for not adequately representing the economy it covers. Created in 1913, it has never been led by a person of color. Lisa Cook became the first Black woman governor on the Board when she was confirmed this week. No Hispanic American has ever sat on the Board or led one of the reserve banks.

Hispanic Americans make up 9.4% of the entire system’s economists, whereas more than 18% of the US population identifies as Hispanic, and just 14 economists across the system are Black, or about 1.5%, compared to about 12% of the country’s population. None of the economists identify as Native Hawaiian or American Indian. 

The figures, publicly released for the first time, show the racial and ethnic composition of the Fed’s 945 economists, which are about evenly split between the Board of Governors in Washington and the 12 reserve banks around the country. More than 70% of the system’s economists are White and three quarters are male.

The central bank is the largest single employer of doctorate-level economists in the US and is charged with shepherding the economy by maintaining stable prices and maximum employment. 

One bright spot for economist diversity is in the Fed’s employment of Asian Americans, which make up nearly 17% of the economist workforce, compared to 5.6% of the US population. Women make up just under a quarter of the system’s economist cohort.  

The data for research assistants, young economists-in-training that often serve as a pipeline for future hiring, show slightly more diversity. Some 66% of the system’s 393 research assistants are White.

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