IFS - Ethnic minorities form a growing proportion of UK academic economists, though some remain heavily under-represented in the most prestigious institutions

26 Oct 2020 01:58 PM

Among economists in UK universities, nearly a quarter (24 per cent) doing research are from non-White backgrounds, an increase of 5 percentage points since 2012. This is higher than academia overall and the general population. Reflecting a broader pattern in UK academia, Chinese and Indian ethnicity individuals are overrepresented, while Black individuals are underrepresented.

Ethnic diversity among economists matters particularly because economists play an important role in the formulation of policy. Diversity within the profession has wider implications for society.

New research published by IFS, co-funded by the Royal Economics Society and the Economic and Social Research Council through the CPP Research Centre at IFS, highlights inequalities between ethnic groups in UK university economics departments. A lack of data from outside of universities means providing a broader survey of the profession is not currently possible.

The research also highlights a number of other differences in experience between different ethnic minority groups:

Ross Warwick, a Research Economist at the IFS, said:

“Ethnic diversity among economists matters particularly because economists often play an important role in the formulation of policy. Overall academic economists in the UK are relatively ethnically diverse compared to other fields and the population as a whole. However, some groups remain underrepresented, such as Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Black Caribbeans, reflecting a broader pattern across the academic sector. Those from many ethnic minorities are also relatively unlikely to work at Russell Group universities.” 

Arun Advani, Assistant Professor at the University of Warwick and co-chair of the Discover Economics campaign, said:

“Our research shows that ethnic minority students are more likely than White students to study economics at the undergraduate level. However, they are less likely to study at Russell Group universities, to get top degrees, or to go on to further study. Further research is required to better understand the causes of these differences ”

Carol Propper, President of the Royal Economics Society, said

“The Royal Economic Society is committed to improving diversity in UK economics. This enquiry into the state of economics in Universities is part of our current actions to achieve this end”.

Ethnic diversity in UK economics