Ethnicity report sheds new light on diversity of UK academic economists


A new report co-funded by the Royal Economic Society (RES) has shed light on levels of ethnic diversity within the academic economics profession in the UK.

Among economists in UK universities, nearly a quarter (24 per cent) conducting research are from non-White backgrounds, an increase of 5 percentage points since 2012. This is higher than in UK 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.

There are clear differences in the type of roles held by ethnic minority staff compared to White employees, as is the case across much of UK academia. Black economists are 64 per cent less likely to work in Russell Group institutions than White economists, and ethnic minority economists are less likely to hold senior academic or managerial positions.

Among undergraduate students, economics is a relatively popular field of study among ethnic minorities, with non-white students accounting for 37 per cent of British undergraduates in 2018. In fact, it is among White students – and White women in particular – where take-up of economics is lowest. However, ethnic minority students are much less likely to continue into further study.

RES President Carol Propper commented, “Shining a spotlight on ethnic differences in UK academia is just a first step in our commitment to working with the whole economics community to improve ethnic diversity in our profession.”

The Government Economic Service (GES) said: “The GES welcomes this analysis and the Royal Economic Society’s actions to draw attention to issues of ethnicity in economics and the importance of economists being more representative of society.  This is why the GES has made the details of its recruitment data available for this research.  The GES puts diversity and inclusion at the heart of our work and is taking action to deliver this, including through creating a degree-level economic apprenticeship entry route which has now been running for two years”.

Publication of the report – a collaboration between the RES, the Institute of Fiscal Studies, CAGE and MiSoC – follows the RES’s recent appointment of a Diversity Champion, Stefania Paredes-Fuentes. The RES is also a founding supporter of Discover Economics, a new campaign to change perceptions of economics among young people of school age and attract students to the subject from under-represented groups.

Report co-author and Discover Economics campaign co-chair Arun Advani stated, “Our findings show that without improving access to economics in schools, it is hard to make economists more representative of society.”

Please click here for the report.