Harvard Economics Department Statement on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging
The Harvard Economics Department is committed to building an economics profession that is inclusive for all regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, or disability. We believe that diversity and inclusion are essential for the profession to produce the highest quality scholarship and best serve society. Yet, a significant body of evidence, including the 2018-2019 American Economic Association Climate Survey, points to serious shortfalls of diversity and inclusion in the economics profession. In addition to the above survey, we are also including our internal economics faculty, students, staff, and researchers 2021 Climate Survey.
The climate issues and related challenges facing the economics profession are complex, and we recognize that what we do in coming semesters is but one stage in our ongoing work. Because words without actions are fundamentally unacceptable, we lay out below some areas for improvement, as well as concrete steps that we have already begun to take and others that we plan to take. We view these as a start. Many of the ideas below are the result of thoughtful input from members of our community, and we welcome further input. We also hope and expect that you will hold us accountable for making progress on the items that we have identified.
Karen Dynan, Professor of the Practice of Economics; Co-Chair of the Economics Faculty Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Committee
David Laibson, Robert I. Goldman Professor of Economics; Co-Chair of the Economics Faculty Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Committee
Edward Glaeser, Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics; Chairman of the Department of Economics at Harvard University
Jeffery Miron, Director of Graduate and Undergraduate Studies
Damari Rosado, Executive Director
We are doing the following to make economics more welcoming to all members of our community, improve the pipeline of young scholars, and monitor our progress:
- Including more coverage of race, inequality, and economic mobility in our introductory courses. We have increasingly incorporated topics related to race, inequality, and mobility into our courses for first-year students and others new to the field. For example, the Department's flagship introductory economics course, Ec 10, offers such material through regular lectures and through an “Economics in Action” guest talk series, which features a diverse set of speakers. Ec 50, another large course accessible to students without a background in economics, dedicates a significant part of its syllabus to the topics of inequality, upward mobility, and racial disparities. We need to continue to build on these efforts to make it clear early on to undergraduates that economists take these issues seriously and that the field can help understand and address these problems.
- Engaging faculty on “best practices” for increasing race, inequality, and economic mobility coverage in courses. We surveyed faculty in 2020 to assess the coverage of race-related topics, inequality, and economic mobility in the undergraduate curriculum. Most faculty responded and the majority said that their undergraduate courses included at least some discussion, examples, or applications related to these topics. Some courses report having ramped up their coverage of these issues significantly. We are approaching the faculty teaching these courses and are asking them to summarize their thinking and efforts in these areas as a guide for other faculty seeking to increase their coverage of these topics. We are conducting the survey again in the spring of 2022.
- Promoting seminars for undergraduates on race and inclusion. We are committed to hosting talks on topics related to race and economic inclusion, with both internal and external speakers. In 2021, the Harvard Undergrads for Inclusion in Economics (HUIE) hosted a seminar series featuring economic research on racial disparities in U.S. health care, the lasting impact of slavery, and racial bias and the criminal justice system. In 2022, HUIE hosted a second series, featuring economic research on gender-related issues, co-sponsored by the Harvard Economics DEIB committee and the Graduate Women in Economics committee.
- Promoting diversity in faculty hiring. All faculty searches make strong efforts to develop and consider a diverse pool of applicants.
- Creating inclusive opportunities for undergraduates to engage in research with faculty. We have launched an RA program for Harvard undergraduates that, for the first time, advertises positions working on a broad range of faculty projects to all students each semester. The program actively encourages applications from members of under-represented and under-privileged groups. In the program’s first three semesters, over half of the RAs identified as underrepresented minorities (either due to race, ethnicity, socio-economic status or gender). In a survey of the first round of RAs, the vast majority expressed the view that the program made them more likely to RA because it made them aware of opportunities, broadened their understanding of what economics research is, and/or it made it easier to connect with faculty that they would have been reticent to approach on their own. We have also developed links to useful resources for underrepresented students looking to carve their path in economics.
- Reducing barriers for graduate students to engage in research with faculty. We would like to ensure that all graduate students seeking research assistant (RA) positions have access to them early in their time at Harvard. To this end, we have started to offer funding to all graduate students seeking RA positions. We are working to identify and address other impediments students may face in gaining access to such positions.
- Recruiting more broadly for RA and pre-doc positions. We are casting a wider, deeper net when recruiting for such positions, for instance by posting such opportunities more broadly and systematically. One example is our growing use of PREDOC.org, a site launched by a group of social science professors to reduce information barriers, help prepare students for an advanced degree in the social sciences, and diversify the pool of qualified applications.
- Making it easier for undergraduates to report concerns. We have revise the DEIB part of our departmental website to include information about all the ways in which undergraduates can reach out to talk confidentially about problems they are having with faculty or other students—this includes an email address that we have set up for students to flag concerns to our undergraduate studies office as well as college- and university-wide resources, and resources beyond Harvard University.
- Making it easier for graduate students to report concerns. We have designated faculty members to serve as confidential conduits for graduate students who have concerns about inappropriate behavior or practices in the Department.
- Building bridges in the community. We plan to continue to seek out ways to collaborate with relevant special interest student groups (like GWE and HUIE), and to include staff in specific DEIB initiatives.
- Tracking trends. We are working to improve the data we have on the representation of different groups in our introductory courses and among undergraduate majors, faculty hiring, and PhD admissions. Our goal is to make data on representation and trends in representation public to increase transparency and foster a robust discussion of how to make the Economics Department more inclusive.
- Participating in, discussing, and learning from climate surveys. Our community participated in the Spring 2021 climate survey run by the Harvard College Office of Institutional Research. Among the department-specific questions we added were questions about how we are doing in fostering inclusion relative to other departments, whether discussions of graduate workshop culture have been useful, and whether the department offers an appropriate number of courses that address issues for historically disadvantaged or marginalized groups. We have circulated the results to our community and are holding listening sessions to encourage discussion and feedback. We are committed to running or participating in regular climate surveys in the future to see if we are improving in terms of the quality of the experience of minority members of our community.
We recognize that improving diversity alone is not enough; it is essential to also improve inclusion, equity, and belonging. Doing so will involve ongoing efforts to improve workplace climate and ensure that all members of our community are treated with fairness and respect.