Police violence against Black people, and resulting protests, in the spring of 2020, have underscored how deep-rooted racism continues to plague so many aspects of our society. Killings of Black people by police are an especially blatant manifestation of racism, but the underlying problems are far more systematic and pervasive. Indeed, as a number of recent events have highlighted, the economics profession is less open and welcoming to Black scholars, and other under-represented minorities (URMs), than it ought to be. The Harvard Economics department needs to do better, and be more proactive in combating racism, than we have been. We need to do so to treat members of our own community with the fairness and compassion they deserve, to improve our scholarship, and to help improve the climate in economics more broadly.
The challenges facing the economics profession are complex, and we do not kid ourselves to think that anything that we do over the coming months or even years will come close to fully confronting them. Nonetheless, it is time to start. And because words without actions are cheap and fundamentally unsatisfying, we lay out below what we see as some obvious areas for improvement, as well as concrete steps that we have already begun to take and others that we plan to take. Again, 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.
Isaiah Andrews, Professor of Economics, Co-Chair, Diversity and Inclusion Committee
Claudia Goldin, Henry Lee Professor of Economics, Co-Chair, Diversity and Inclusion Committee
Jeremy Stein, Moise Y. Safra Professor of Economics, Department Chair
Jeffery Miron, Director of Graduate and Undergraduate Studies
Damari Rosado, Executive Director
Make Economics More Welcoming to All Members of Our Community
I. Conduct a broad review of our undergraduate curriculum to ensure appropriate coverage of race-related topics, inequality, and economic mobility.
II. Make an effort to push some of these topics into introductory courses accessible to freshmen and sophomores, perhaps with more extensive use of guest lectures, so that it is made clear early on that economics and economists take an interest in these issues.
III. Host various seminars, lectures and workshops about aspects of racism, with both internal and external speakers. Involve students and staff in running these events.
IV. Invite visiting scholars and faculty to spend time at Harvard—with goals of both improving diversity of views/research topics in the short run, and potentially scouting out candidates for more permanent positions in the longer run.
V. Ensure that all graduate students seeking RA positions have access to such positions early in their time at Harvard.
VI. Establish more ambitious goals for diversity in hiring. These goals should be at all levels, but our various pre-doc and full-time RA positions are one place where it would seem possible to do considerably better even in the short run.
VII. Create an informal advocate role, so that students can talk confidentially about problems they are having with faculty or other students, and so that departmental leadership is in a position to intervene if need be.
VIII. Find ways to enhance Inclusion since Diversity by itself is not enough. Inclusion involves issues of workplace climate, equity, fairness, and respect.
Improve the Pipeline of Young Scholars
I. Revamp and substantially improve the Research Scholars Initiative (RSI). The program (if foundation funding is granted) will have a new name and be under the sole direction of the Department of Economics.
II. Do a better job supporting, mentoring, and creating productive research experiences for students in the new program.
III. Be more proactive in our recruiting efforts for the program.
IV. Broaden our network and contacts—for example, in cooperation with initiatives of the American Economic Association—so that we are more aware of talented minority undergraduates from other schools.
V. Consider ways to invest in URM applicants to our PhD program who are not admitted, but who show promise, so that they may have the opportunity to further prepare and re-apply to the program.
VI. Do a better job of outreach to our own undergrads who may be potential candidates for graduate study in economics.
Measure and Monitor Progress
I. Explicitly track URM representation not only in our undergrad majors, faculty hiring, and PhD admissions, but also with respect to seminar speakers and publications in the QJE, among other areas.
II. Run regular climate surveys to see if we are improving in terms of the quality of the experience of minority members of our community.
III. Endeavor to include a broad range of students, staff and faculty in efforts to improve diversity, inclusion, and belonging.