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Socioeconomic diversity of economics PhDs


  • Robert Schultz

    (University of Michigan)

  • Anna Stansbury

    (Peterson Institute for International Economics)


It is well documented that women and racial and ethnic minorities are underrepresented in the economics profession, relative to both the general population and many other academic disciplines. Less is known about the socioeconomic diversity of the profession. In this paper, we use data from the National Science Foundation’s Survey of Earned Doctorates to examine the socioeconomic background of US economics PhD recipients as compared with US PhD recipients in other disciplines, proxying for socioeconomic background using PhD recipients’ parents’ educational attainment. We find that economics PhD recipients are substantially more likely to have highly educated parents, and less likely to have parents without a college degree, than PhD recipients in other disciplines. This is true both for US-born and non-US-born PhD recipients, but the gap between economics and other disciplines is starker for those born in the United States. The gap in socioeconomic diversity between economics and other PhD disciplines has increased over the last two decades.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert Schultz & Anna Stansbury, 2022. "Socioeconomic diversity of economics PhDs," Working Paper Series WP22-4, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:iie:wpaper:wp22-4

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    Cited by:

    1. Todd Pugatch & Elizabeth Schroeder, 2024. "A simple nudge increases socioeconomic diversity in undergraduate Economics," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 62(1), pages 287-307, January.
    2. Marc F. Bellemare & Jeffrey R. Bloem, 2022. "The contribution of the Online Agricultural and Resource Economics Seminar to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in agricultural and applied economics," Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 44(4), pages 1909-1924, December.
    3. Nicolás Ajzenman & Bruno Ferman & Sant’Anna Pedro C., 2023. "Discrimination in the Formation of Academic Networks: A Field Experiment on #EconTwitter," Working Papers 235, Red Nacional de Investigadores en Economía (RedNIE).
    4. Macchi, Elisa & Sievert, Clara & Bolotnyy, Valentin & Barreira, Paul, 2023. "Mental Health in European Economics Departments," IZA Discussion Papers 16309, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    5. Piera Bello & Alessandra Casarico & Debora Nozza, 2023. "Research Similarity and Women in Academia," CESifo Working Paper Series 10657, CESifo.

    More about this item


    Economics; Economists; Economics Education; Diversity and Inclusion; Socioeconomic Background; Socioeconomic Inequality;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • A11 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Role of Economics; Role of Economists
    • A20 - General Economics and Teaching - - Economic Education and Teaching of Economics - - - General
    • J44 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Professional Labor Markets and Occupations
    • J71 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Hiring and Firing

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