Lack of black economists leading to absence of 'passion' in solving society's inequalities, Royal Society chief says

Camilla Turner
·3 min read
Prof Propper said that the underrepresentation of senior black economists is a problem when it comes to policy making
Prof Propper said that the underrepresentation of senior black economists is a problem when it comes to policy making

A lack of black economists is leading to an absence of "passion" is solving housing, education and employment inequalities, a Royal Society chief has said.

Prof Carol Propper said that greater ethnic diversity is needed among economic policy makers to ensure that the views of different communities are advocated.

Her comments come as a new report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) shows that black economists are 64 per cent less likely to work in Russell Group institutions than their white peers.

But ethnic minority economists who work in Russell Group universities are 45 per cent less likely to hold a senior academic or managerial position than their white peers, researchers suggested.

Prof Propper, president of the Royal Society of Economics, said that the underrepresentation of senior black economists is a problem when it comes to policy making.

“Diversity in economics is important because the key policy issues that the Government needs to address are so-called ‘wicked problems’ which are difficult to solve and require trade-offs,” she told The Daily Telegraph.

“If all policy advisors have exactly the same world view, then these trade-offs don’t get exposed.”

Prof Propper said that in order to address inequalities in health, access to jobs, training, employment and education, public policy must be drawn up by those who are “passionate” about such issues. 

Having fewer black economists involved in forming policies means that these issues are “highlighted less” and are “brought to the fore less”, she said. 

“The trade-offs need champions and that is why you need diversity of views and of passions,” Prof Propper added.

The IFS report, co-funded by the Royal Economics Society and the Economic and Social Research Council, found that ethnic minority students are less likely to study at Russell Group universities and are much less likely to continue into further study.

Bangladeshi economics undergraduates are half as likely to be enrolled at Russell Group universities as white students and black Caribbeans are more than 60% less likely, the report said.

"There are significant inequalities in the degree of representation of different ethnic groups at different levels of UK economics,” the report said.

"Although well represented at undergraduate level overall, ethnic minority students are less likely to attend research-intensive institutions, achieve an upper second or first class honours degree, or continue on to doctoratal study. Such factors represent clear barriers to greater representation in economic research roles."

A Russell Group spokesman said: "Russell Group universities are committed to promoting equality, diversity and inclusion and have taken a range of steps in recent years to increase diversity among staff, address racial harassment, tackle attainment gaps and remove barriers to university access in BAME [black, asian and minority ethnic] groups.

"More needs to be done and this work remains a priority for our members, who will continue to look at how we can promote equality and diversity at all levels in collaboration with students and staff."