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Black economists make up only 1.5% of Federal Reserve staff

Data: The Federal Reserve; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

Black researchers remain woefully underrepresented in the Federal Reserve system, comprising only 1.5% of its 945-person staff of economists, according to Fed data published publicly for the first time on Thursday.

Why it matters: The numbers highlight the Fed’s struggles with diversity as its 12-bank system and Board of Governors in D.C. make crucial decisions about economic policy that have a wide range of impacts on communities of color.

The Fed has faced growing calls for greater diversity for years, with lawmakers and think tanks highlighting the need for a wider range of perspectives.

Details: Fourteen doctorate-level economists identify as Black alone across the entire Fed system.

The board, which has 429 economists, employs one Black man and no Black women.Black people make up a larger share of the Fed’s research assistants at about 5%. Black people account for 13.4% of the U.S. population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.Among the Fed’s doctorate-level economists, 72% are white, 17% are Asian and 9.4% are Hispanic or Latino.

Zoom out: The new data confirms what was already previously known.

The Federal Reserve has an “overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly male” problem goes beyond its top ranks to the boards that run its 12 regional banks, according to a report published last year by the Brookings Institution.

What’s new: Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who serves on the Senate Banking Committee, on Thursday said he voted against confirming Jerome Powell to a second term as Fed chair due to the central bank’s “serious diversity problem.”

Powell was ultimately confirmed with broad bipartisan support.

What to watch: The new Fed board will include two Black governors, Lisa Cook and Philip Jefferson. Cook is the first Black woman on the panel in its 108-year history.