Black researchers remain woefully underrepresented in the Federal Reserve system, comprising only 1.5% of its 945-person staff of economists, according to Fed data published publicly for the first time on Thursday.

Why it matters: The numbers highlight the Fed’s struggles with diversity as its 12-bank system and Board of Governors in D.C. make crucial decisions about economic policy that have a wide range of impacts on communities of color.

  • The Fed has faced growing calls for greater diversity for years, with lawmakers and think tanks highlighting the need for a wider range of perspectives.

Details: Fourteen doctorate-level economists identify as Black alone across the entire Fed system.

  • The board, which has 429 economists, employs one Black man and no Black women.
  • Black people make up a larger share of the Fed’s research assistants at about 5%.
  • Black people account for 13.4% of the U.S. population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Among the Fed’s doctorate-level economists, 72% are white, 17% are Asian and 9.4% are Hispanic or Latino.

Zoom out: The new data confirms what was already previously known.

  • The Federal Reserve has an “overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly male” problem that goes beyond its top ranks to the boards that run its 12 regional banks, according to a report published last year by the Brookings Institution.

What’s new: Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who serves on the Senate Banking Committee, on Thursday said he voted against confirming Jerome Powell to a second term as Fed chair due to the central bank’s “serious diversity problem.”

  • Powell was ultimately confirmed with broad bipartisan support.

What to watch: The new Fed board will include two Black governors, Lisa Cook and Philip Jefferson. Cook is the first Black woman on the panel in its 108-year history.

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