Princeton University Scholar Aims to Diversity the Pipeline for Economic Doctoral Programs

Leonard Wantchekon, a professor of politics at Princeton Univerity in New Jersey, has launched a new effort to boost the number of African Americans in the Ph.D. pipeline in economics.

Today, about  3 percent of all Ph.D.s in economics are awarded to African Americans. Black economists made up only 1.2 percent of faculty in the 20 top-ranked economics departments in the United States.

Princeton will partner with the economics department of Hunter College of the City University of New York. Princeton faculty will teach classes at the Hunter College branch campus in Harlem and students in the program will be able to take courses at Princeton.

“One significant part of the pipeline problem in economics,” Wantchekon says, “is the rigorous quantitative training required to be admitted to top economics Ph.D. programs. While some undergraduate students at leading research universities in the U.S. have access to the type of graduate-level coursework required, many don’t. And even within undergraduate economics programs at these institutions, where many students receive this training or mentorship, enrollment of Black students remains stubbornly low. If we rely on these feeder systems to diversify the field, he says, progress will be slow, if it happens at all. We have to create a conduit for these students who didn’t go to top-tier research universities.”

Professor Wantchekon notes that having a large number of Black students in a rigorous feeder program will have beneficial effects. “Instead of being the only Black student in your program, you’ll be one of 20, 30, or 40. Support will be provided both inside and outside the classroom, academically, but also socially and culturally.”

Professor Wantchekon joined the Princeton faculty in 2015 after teaching at Yale University and New York Univerity. In 2010, he founded the African School of Economics that has campuses in Benin and Côte d’Ivoire. Dr. Wantchekon holds a master’s degree in economics from the University of British Columbia and a Ph.D. in economics from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

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