Actively recruit students who may be underprepared, unsure, or unaware.
Students enter college with different amounts of exposure to and encouragement in economics. A laissez-faire approach, of doing little to attract and inform students, yields a self-selected set of insiders (Bayer and Rouse 2016). Economics departments should address misperceptions and knowledge gaps and actively recruit underrepresented students into the field of economics.
[O]ne colleague told me that on her first day on campus at an Ivy League college, the computer science department had a huge banner inviting women to learn more about what they had to offer. The other STEM subjects all had women’s resource groups and professional organizations, but the economics department had nothing. In fact, when she went to the economics department to inquire, they gave her a list of classes and told her to come back when she was done—not the enthusiastic welcome she was hoping for.Daly, M. C. (2018). Getting from Diversity to Inclusion in Economics. FRBSF Economic Letter.
- Have department faculty and majors attend fairs and initiate conversations with first-year students.
- Update your department webpage.
- Advertise the broad array of careers and research in economics.
- Send email to incoming women and URM students with information on a diverse array of economists and economics research during the summer before their first year of college (Bayer, Bhanot, Lozano 2019).
- Host open house events with food and older students for newer students to get to know and feel welcomed by your department.
- Create an inclusive classroom climate.
- Aggressively market the economics degree to students in introductory economics courses, and consider allowing high achieving students to waive the second semester of a principles requirement (Cloutier and Kaufman 2008).
- Send wise feedback and notes of encouragement. Students who have not traditionally identified with economics may decide not to major in economics after getting a B in an introductory economics class. (Goldin, figure 6B in this report).
- Remember that math ability and economic intuition are learned skills. Foster a growth mindset in your students.
Bayer, Bhanot, and Lozano, (2019) report “the results of a field experiment involving 2,710 students across nine US colleges, in which faculty provided incoming women and URM students with information about economics. [They] randomly assign students to one of three conditions: a control (no email messaging), a Welcome treatment (two emails encouraging students to consider enrolling in economics courses), and a Welcome+Info treatment (which added information showcasing the diversity of research and researchers within economics). The Welcome+Info treatment increases the likelihood of completing an economics course in the first semester of college by 3.0 percentage points, nearly 20 percent of the base rate.)
Getting students into the classroom is only the beginning, from there it’s important to make sure they feel supported and encouraged to continue in the field. Provide RBG to all students. Hobson-Horton and Owew (2004) find that demonstrating to URM students that your department is a safe, multicultural, and relevant space can lead to greater feelings of interest. Continue to advertise your field, send notes of encouragement, and emphasize courses that might be more interesting to underrepresented students such as Race, Gender, and Economics.
Cloutier and Kaufman (2008) found that by “(1) aggressively marketing the economics degree, and (2) allowing high achieving students to waive the macroeconomics principles requirements for an economics degree” a higher percentage of women decided to pursue an economics major. Their study demonstrated that the students that decided to waive the macroeconomics principles class were not disadvantaged in upper level courses, and that after its implementation and heavy marketing in 1991, the gender balance for the economics degree improved significantly. “In the period 1975-1994, 26.3% of economics graduates were female, but in the period 1995-2007 the percentage female among economics graduates increased to 40.5%.” They found that just offering the waiver option increased enrollment of underrepresented students, even for those who did not use the waiver.
Bayer, A., Bhanot, S. P., & Lozano, F. (2019, May). Does simple information provision lead to more diverse classrooms? Evidence from a field experiment on undergraduate economics. In AEA Papers and Proceedings (Vol. 109, pp. 110-14). https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/pandp.20191097
Bayer, A., & Rouse, C. E. (2016). Diversity in the economics profession: A new attack on an old problem. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 30(4), 221-42. https://pubs.aeaweb.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1257/jep.30.4.221
Cloutier, N. R., & Kaufman, D. A. (2008). Attracting ‘Otherwise Bright’ Women to Economics: An Administrative Strategy for Small to Medium Size Economics Departments. Available at SSRN 1305369. http://www.economics-finance.org/jefe/econ/JEFE%202009-034%20Cloutierfinalpaper.pdf
Hobson-Horton, Lisa D., and Lula Owens. “From freshman to graduate: Recruiting and retaining minority students.” Journal of Hispanic Higher Education 3, no. 1 (2004): 86-107.