From undergraduate to postgraduate research and practice, economics is marked by a lack of diversity. Discussing the results of the recent report of the Royal Economic Society “Who studies economics”, Stefania Paredes’ sources And Tim Burnett argue that the lack of diversity in economics across multiple dimensions continues to limit the diversity and relevance of economic ideas and research.
Economics is a discipline with significant influence in shaping policy decisions that affect society, with graduates working in government and central banks and economics scholars doing research that shapes policy. However, it is well known that the economy lacks diversity. Lack of gender diversity it has been well reported in recent years; however, it is important to look at other dimensions of diversity if we want the discipline to reflect society.
In our recent report Who studies economics?*, we emphasize the elitist nature of the subject. Students from a lower socioeconomic background are less likely to study economics at university. In fact, among all disciplines, economics has the smallest proportion of students from low-participation areas (areas where relatively few people attend universities, often due to socio-economic problems), and only 5% of economics students come from such areas for compared to 12.% of the total number of students. Instead, 53% of economics students in the UK are of higher socioeconomic status and 20% have attended private schools, even though less than 8% of students attend private schools in the UK (compared to 42% and 9% for the total student population) . , respectively).
Some of the same structures and cultural barriers that have influenced the inclusion of women in the profession may affect the marginalization of individuals from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. But there are other factors as well. Economics is offered at all 24 Russell Group universities, but only 67 of the 148 non-Russell Group universities offer a single honors degree in economics. This means that Russell Group universities attract 50% of economics students.
Looking at the intersection of socioeconomic background, gender, and ethnicity, we find that white male students from higher socioeconomic backgrounds constitute the dominant group among economics students. At Russell Group universities, they account for 33 out of 100 students, and a slightly smaller but still significant proportion at non-Russell Group universities (Figure 1). Students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, of any gender or ethnicity, make up just 6 out of 100 at Russell Group universities.
The limited availability of economics degrees outside of Russell Group institutions exacerbates some of the problems with diversity in the economy. Students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to attend local universities closer to home. In fact, we observe that people of lower socioeconomic status are higher in universities after 92.
However, simply attracting more students from underrepresented groups into the economy may not be enough. Universities must also ensure that these students receive adequate support to realize their potential and succeed. Unfortunately, students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and ethnic minorities are more likely to drop out of university and less likely to earn a second or higher level degree in economics, even if they have the same education as their more advanced ones. wealthy, white colleagues. This directly affects the diversity of professional and academic economistsand limits the range of perspectives and experiences that economists can draw on in their research and policy making process.
Diversity among economists is critical to policy making, as it allows for a wide range of perspectives and experiences to be taken into account, leading to more informed and effective decision-making. Lack of diversity can lead to group making common and often suboptimal decisions, incomplete analysis of alternatives, and inattention to consequences. In social psychology, this is known as groupthink” and this happens more often in non-diverse groups. Gponder used to explain why investment risks have been underestimated by so many before the 2008 financial crisis
Recently, politicians such as State Economic Service, Bank of England, Office of Financial Conduct (FCA) did diversity and inclusion key strategic priority. However, the representation of women, ethnic minority groups and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds remains low. In 2021, only about 13% of FTSE350 executives were women, with even lower representation of other underrepresented groups.
While there is little data on the socioeconomic status of economists, it is clear that the UK elite tend to come from privileged backgrounds and graduate from top universities (see chart).Elite Britain(Sutton Trust study). This is likely to affect senior economists in various professional positions in policy making. Not only is this damaging to the diversity of the economy and its pipeline, but it could also affect the UK’s social mobility. In particular, a very high percentage of economics graduates find employment in graduate positions (compared to other disciplines). The economy is also doing well promoting social mobility among its graduates.
The lack of diversity and groupthink also affects economic research. What’s happened ‘worthy’ the research question will be influenced by the researcher’s personal experience and current trends in publications, which are strongly influenced by the mix of economics researchers who publish extensively in high-ranking journals. Ethnic minority economists are underrepresented in academia and are less likely to publish in leading journals. Economics is less likely to explore issues related to race and ethnicity. compared to other social sciences, despite the importance of racial inequality for economic outcomes. In addition to thematic preferences, a lack of diversity reinforces discrimination and negatively impacts economists from underrepresented groups. Economics articles written by women less likely to be accepted at the conference and manuscripts of women academic economists are kept to higher standards than male colleagues, which influence the number of articles published by women. All in all, ill-conceived organizational choices may exclude some groups from conferences and seminars limiting their ability to network and disseminate their work.
Ultimately, it is also a matter of social justice: any systemic barriers that prevent some groups from studying economics or working in certain positions based on characteristics beyond human control must be unacceptable, and we must do more to overcome these barriers.
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