Why We Need More Black Women In Economics

tags: economic history, African American history, Race, reparations

Keri Leigh Merritt works as a historian and writer in Atlanta, Georgia. Her award-winning first book, Masterless Men: Poor Whites and Slavery in the Antebellum South, was published with Cambridge University Press in 2017. She is co-editor, with Matthew Hild, of Reconsidering Southern Labor History: Race, Class, and Power (University Press of Florida, 2018), and also writes shorter pieces for publications like the Washington PostBill Moyers and CompanyAeon, and Smithsonian Magazine.


The historic and deliberate exclusion of African Americans from economics has undoubtedly hindered the quest to diminish wealth inequality in the United States. And given the historic double-oppression of Black women through both race and gender, their representation within economics is essential to Black progress. If we truly want to discuss racial justice, we desperately need to address and correct this disparity.

As Trevon Logan, Professor and North Hall Chair in Economics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told The North Star, the underrepresentation of Black economists is “a deep problem,” because these scholars “are heavily involved in the policy space, and yet we do not have all of the voices that we need at the table to think through the implications of the work that we are doing.” “The lack of economists from underrepresented groups, and Black women in particular,” he continued, “is a large and glaring blind spot for the discipline.”

According to the 2018 Report of the Committee on the Status of Minority Groups in the Economics Profession, efforts to attract more minority students in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) have made notable gains. However, math and economics still lag behind the other disciplines. The most significant difference could be seen in doctorates awarded: minorities comprised 13.2 percent of STEM PhDs, but only 7.4 percent of economics PhDs. This difference is partially attributable to the fact that historically, the field of economics has been overwhelmingly white and male. They are also related to racism, which have arisen simultaneously with sexism. This disparity is demonstrated at the upper echelons of government service with only two African Americans–Raphael Bostic and Andrew Brimmer–who have served on the Federal Reserve Board.

Out of underrepresented minority students in these fields, Black women often fared the worst.


Read entire article at The North Star

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