Fed’s Brainard urges greater diversity in field of economics

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FILE- In this June 14, 2018, file photo Federal Reserve Board Governor Lael Brainard participates in an open meeting in Washington. Brainard, a Federal Reserve official widely considered a front-runner to be tapped as President-elect Joe Biden’s Treasury Secretary, is urging universities and government agencies to make the field of economics more inclusive. Brainard, a member of the Federal Reserve’s board of governors, noted Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020, that the economics field is less diverse than other professions, such as law and medicine. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Federal Reserve official widely considered a front-runner to be tapped as President-elect Joe Biden’s Treasury Secretary is urging universities and government agencies to make the field of economics more inclusive.

Lael Brainard, a member of the Federal Reserve’s board of governors, noted Tuesday that the economics field is less diverse than other professions, such as law and medicine.

“Diversity and inclusion need to be priorities for every economics department around the country — and for the think tanks, governments, businesses, and many other organizations that train and employ economists,” she said in prepared remarks delivered online to a Fed recruiting event targeted to college students. “We need to make it a national goal to catch up to medicine, science, engineering, and other fields.”

Brainard’s comments also come as the economics profession has struggled in recent years to address complaints about gender and racial insensitivity, including at the Federal Reserve itself.

Brainard noted that black women earned just 1.5% of undergraduate economics degrees from 2011 through 2015, far below their 6.2% share of all undergraduate degrees. And women make up 30% of those receiving doctorates in economics in 2018, she said, barely changed from 1994, even though women make up more than half of all medical students. Blacks and Latinos are also less likely to earn doctorates in economics than they are to receive medical degrees.

Brainard was Treasury undersecretary for international affairs under President Barack Obama and was also an economic adviser to President Bill Clinton. She has served on the Fed’s board since 2014 and was previously mentioned as a potential Treasury Secretary if Hillary Clinton had been elected in 2016.

Still, there are others under consideration, including former Fed Chair Janet Yellen, former Fed Vice Chair Roger Ferguson, and Sarah Bloom Raskin, a former member of the Fed’s board.

On Tuesday, Ferguson announced that he is retiring as president and CEO of TIAA, a financial services firm, effective March 31, after 12 years in the position.

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