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Bring more diversity to economics – Crain’s Chicago Business

Bring diversity to economics

Of the 9,000 full professors of economics in the United States, about 20 are Black, according to NPR. We can try to figure out why that might be, but I would suggest that our time is much better spent figuring out how to get more African Americans in the field. With that in mind, my alma mater, the University of Chicago, gave me great pride upon its commitment to adding diversity to its economics department.

The university has a long history of welcoming new ideas. Lisa Cook, an African American economist who has gained recent notoriety for her work showing the connection of violence to lower innovation and the impact of that on Blacks in the U.S., spoke about the help she received in getting it published from Milton Friedman, a Nobel Prize-winning University of Chicago economist, on NPR podcast “Planet Money.”

While the university’s commitment did come in the wake of a furor over professor Harald Uhlig, we should not lose sight of the leadership it has always shown.

John List, one of the world’s foremost experimental economists, is also at UChicago. Why not ask for his help in designing experiments aimed at boosting minority enrollment and completion in the field? A recent experiment conducted at Swarthmore College found a 20 percent rise in course completion for minority economics students. The seeds have been sown; it is up to us to water them.


Protect the homeless

In the wake of the coronavirus, the homeless are caught in the crosshairs of a pandemic with nowhere to turn. Although the COVID-19 pandemic is a public health crisis, killing hundreds of thousands of people, homelessness in America has been a public health crisis for centuries.

People living on the streets are more susceptible to COVID-19 because of their weakened immune systems. This may be one reason why America is unable to bring the number of infected cases down.

All over the country, staff in homeless shelters are testing positive for COVID-19, and as more people become homeless due to job closures, the number of infected cases will go up. Universal testing in shelters is crucial, as well as the right to housing during the pandemic.

The government must simply do more to protect the homeless. Luckily, some states are starting to allocate millions to help mitigate the pandemic’s impact on the homeless and preventing people from losing their homes. Although Republican lawmakers want to spend trillions of taxpayer dollars on fighting COVID-19, nothing in their package will be included for helping the homeless population who have nowhere to go.

President Trump’s denial of science and the expert advice from his own health officials is literally killing Americans. If protecting hospitals from lawsuits is more important than protecting the homeless from the coronavirus, how do any of us stand a chance in surviving this crisis or any of the back-deals being made in Washington?

It’s obvious to me the swamp still needs to be drained. In short, “We the People” stands for all the people, no matter who they are—or where they live.


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