Why Do Economists Have Trouble Understanding Racialized Inequalities?

  • Citation: Kvangraven, Ingrid Harvold and Surbhi Kesar. “Why Do Economists Have Trouble Understanding Racialized Inequalities?” Institute for New Economic Thinking, August 3, 2020.
    • Topics:
    • Reframing IR and Development
    • Keywords:
    • mainstream economics
    • systemic inequalities
    • race
    • individual behavior

In the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in the summer of 2020 and the protests that followed, economists, as others, have scrutinized their own biases and racism within the profession itself. The economics profession has long been criticized for often ignoring the structural basis of racism or, in general, any form of identity-based discrimination. Is there something about the way economics is taught that makes it difficult for economists to identify and address structural racism? A survey of around 500 economists that we ran earlier this year would suggest so In this post, we unpack what survey data says about different types of economists’ capacity to teach about structural inequalities, and relate the results to how various theoretical traditions in economics approach inequalities related to group identities. Based on this analysis, we argue that long term and structural change in the economics field is necessary in order to make it more cognizant of how racism and colonial legacies impact on economic processes – and that such change must include a reform of how we currently teach economics.

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