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Biden puts stamp on Fed with bank regulator, board diversity

Jennifer Jacobs and Jennifer Epstein, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

Diversity Push

The selections of Cook and Jefferson would bring diversity to a central bank that’s faced criticism about its homogeneity, especially in recent years. The economics profession more broadly has also been grappling with a past that often ignored or overlooked the impacts of racism and inequality on the economy.

Positions in the Fed and in economics as a whole have historically been held by White men — the Fed’s Washington hub had just two Black Ph.D. holders at the end of 2020, among its roughly 400 economists.

Cook, an economics professor at Michigan State University, has dedicated a large part of her career to researching the ways in which economic inequality hampers growth.

She has studied the economic costs of inequality in a variety of ways, from the racially uneven distribution of Paycheck Protection Program loans during the pandemic to the impact of post-Civil War violence on Black invention and the lost value to the economy of fewer Black patents.

The appointment may not come without some friction, though. Some Republicans in the Senate have argued that tapping Cook for the Fed board would be controversial.


Fed Experience

Jefferson, the vice president for academic affairs and an economics professor at Davidson College in North Carolina, has worked at the Fed twice before, serving as an economist in the board’s monetary affairs division from 1996 to 1997, and as a research assistant in the fiscal analysis section from 1983 to 1985.

He has authored and edited books and articles on poverty, and inequality has been one of the focus areas of his teaching. He has taught at Columbia University, the University of Virginia and Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania.

Kevin Hassett, who was Trump’s chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, intends to “aggressively support” Jefferson throughout the nomination process.

“Phil Jefferson is someone I would have been 100% comfortable telling President Trump to nominate to the Federal Reserve,” said Hassett, who taught at Columbia with Jefferson in the 1990s.

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