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Meet Fed Pioneer Lisa Cook, First African-American Woman to sit on Federal Reserve Board

By Catarina Saraiva

 Her path to confirmation wasn’t easy. A professor at Michigan State University, Lisa Cook endured backlash from Republican senators over her research into the historical effects of violence on Black innovation. After almost four months of debate, she was confirmed, 51-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie. Now, Cook is helping to shape central bank policy as it tackles the highest inflation in decades.

Lisa Cook Photographer: 731: Photo: Ting Shen/Bloomberg

Cook is renowned for her research into economic inequality and its impact on growth. Specifically, she’s looked at how lynchings affected the number of patents issued and the impact of those lost patents on American innovation. From 1870 to 1940, Black Americans filed 726 patents, but Cook’s extrapolations suggest there would’ve been 1,100 more without lynchings.

She’s also worked in international development, researching Russia’s banking system after the fall of the Soviet Union and advising the central bank of Rwanda after its 1994 civil war. Cook was a senior economist on President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers and has worked at the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of International Affairs.

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